‘It’s Elementary’

“I need you to make predictions on how many drops of water a coin can hold. Put it in writing like this: ‘I think ____ drops for a quarter, ____ drops for a dime and ___ drops for a penny.’ Once you make your prediction, collect your supplies for the experiments. What else will we need besides coins?” asked Allison Langworthy, Jefferson Middle School fifth-grade teacher, to her classroom with students of varying grade levels.

“Water, eyedropper, cup, napkins,” said the students.

“Excellent. Remember, everyone needs to complete the Scientific Method Experiment Sheet documenting the purpose or problem, your hypothesis, procedure, materials, results and conclusion.”

As part of their Scientific Method unit, the coin experiment is just one of a few hands-on labs containing real-world, cross-curricular questions completed in Langworthy’s class. The coin lab not only helps students learn the steps of the Scientific Method, but also gives students the perspective of volume. The lesson aligns with the Common Core Standards, and differentiates instruction for the students in the class who learn at different grade levels.

The lab focuses on: Scientific Method – a large component of science in fifth grade and is part of the science curriculum map; volume – a sixth-grade Common Core standard in geometry; money – giving the students an opportunity to hold coins and add them together, another Common Core standard.

“I didn’t know about the Scientific Method,” said fifth-grader Justus Smith. “I learned that I have to make a hypothesis, or educated guess, before I do the experiment.”

Students completed two trials, with questions between each trial like, “Does it matter if you drop the water quickly or slowly?”

“The hands-on labs motivate the students to learn, as they are student-led,” said Langworthy. “Students get so excited about science, and as many are visual learners, it really helps them to understand and remember the subject matter by using kinesthetic/tactile learning styles. The hands-on nature of science makes it easier to incorporate other subject matter too.”