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Four Ways to Teach the Scientific Method

Teaching students about the scientific method helps prepare them to do science experiments and to design and execute their own science fair projects to explore science questions. These four free plug-and-play resources help you approach the scientific method with tools and learning aids that suit the needs of your classroom.

Images from four different resources to teach the Scientific Method

Teaching Steps of the Scientific Method

Whether preparing students to do classroom science experiments and science fair projects or reviewing the way science experiments work and how scientists approach testing science questions, educators teach and use the scientific method with K-12 students at all grade levels.

The scientific method offers a set of steps that help students understand the process of asking a question, doing research, forming a hypothesis, and then putting the hypothesis to the test with an experiment. The steps of the scientific method include:

  1. Ask a question.
  2. Do background research.
  3. Construct a hypothesis.
  4. Do an experiment.
  5. Analyze data from the experiment.
  6. Draw conclusions.
  7. Communicate results.

In learning about the scientific method, students learn about independent, dependent, and controlled variables; the importance of doing multiple trials; what to do when an experiment doesn't go as planned; and how to analyze data and evaluate whether or not the hypothesis was supported.

While the steps of the scientific method do not work for testing every question, and scientists may not follow the steps exactly every time, the scientific method does help organize the flow of a science experiment and helps reinforce the relationship between the science question, the hypothesis, the variables, and experimentation. Students can use these steps as a repeatable sequence for organizing and conducting a science fair project or experiment. With a hypothesis statement formulated to indicate the variable that will be changed (independent) in order to see what happens to another variable (dependent), students learn to design and conduct experiments that can lead to meaningful data.

Four Free Resources to Teach the Scientific Method

As you get ready to introduce or review the scientific method, see how these free resources can help you reach students in different ways:

1. Scientific Method Video

The Scientific Method: Steps and Examples

The Scientific Method: Steps and Examples video walks students through the scientific method using a sample science project involving making popping boba. In the video, students follow along as a testable science question is selected, background research is conducted, a hypothesis is formed, a procedure is identified, and an experiment is performed.

You might watch the video with students in the classroom and discuss the steps or assign watching the video as homework. (Note: For Google Classroom educators, the video can be assigned using our button for Google Classroom.)

2. Scientific Method Lesson Plans

Paper Rockets - STEM Activity

With our NGSS-aligned lesson plans, educators can teach the scientific method in the classroom using a hands-on activity that helps students put the steps in action as they work through the steps of a project.

There are two Lesson Plans designed for teaching the scientific method to students:

Designed for use in elementary and middle school, these lessons help educators lead an interactive, guided activity to teach the scientific method. In both lessons, students explore steps of the scientific method while building and testing paper rockets. Each lesson plan contains grade-level NGSS alignment information, preparatory information for educators, a hands-on activity, discussion prompts, a worksheet, and an assessment tool. To learn more about Science Buddies Lesson Plans, see How to Use a Science Buddies Lesson Plan.

3. Scientific Method Video Lesson

In the Scientific Method: How Do Scientists Make Discoveries? video lesson, Science Buddies teaches students about the scientific method. The video lesson introduces the scientific method and leads students in a hands-on activity to explore the role of animal camouflage in evolution. During the activity, students practice each step of the scientific method including doing background research, making a hypothesis, conducting an experiment, analyzing data, and drawing conclusions. The self-paced video lesson format allows students to follow along, pausing to do steps of the experiment and to fill in the worksheet.

4. Scientific Method Project Guide

Diagram of Scientific Method

The Steps of the Scientific Method guide can be used alone or in combination with the video and lesson plans described above. This resource summarizes the scientific method and contains an interactive diagram that allows students to click on individual steps to review information about the different steps.

This project guide can be assigned using the Google Classroom button. An assessment tool is also provided for Google Classroom educators.

What about the Engineering Design Process?

Like the scientific method, the engineering design process offers a framework that can help guide the design and execution of an engineering project. These methods are similar in some ways, but they differ in significant ways as well.

This video helps explain the differences between the methods:

Which should you choose? Scientific Method versus Engineering Design Process

See also: Comparing the Engineering Design Process and the Scientific Method.

For resources to teach the engineering design process, see 4 Ways to Teach Engineering Design.

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