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Science skills for learning

Observing – This is the most fundamental of science skills. That’s because most students are born with five senses, which inform how they experience the world.

Observation requires students to note the “big picture” and the fine details.

Encourage your students to describe what they see in detail; this will help them identify properties and make more knowledgeable hypotheses. When studying botany, for example, have them do more than just note the color and shape of the flower. Have them count the petals, draw pictures of the leaves, and look at the pollen under a magnifying glass.

Classifying – This skill builds upon observation. Students can learn to separate and sort objects based on properties. Younger students can learn to sort using a single factor (e.g., number of legs: spiders have eight and insects have six), while older students can classify using several factors at once.

Teaching classification is also a great time to introduce new vocabulary words. You can encourage students to practice using these words by writing them in a science notebook, or, for younger students, by memorizing a song or poem using the new words. This is an excellent way to cross

Quantifying – One of the most valuable skills needed for science study is the ability to measure accurately.

You can start by teaching young students how to use a ruler and a measuring cup. As they grow older, they will acquire more complex measuring skills using mathematical equations and advanced equipment.

Predicting – This skill derives from your students being able to spot patterns in past experiments or existing evidence (i.e., from the natural world).

Predicting is an educated guess about what’s likely to happen when you introduce changes.

Before performing any experiment, ask your children what they think will happen and have them write down their guesses. Explain that this is called making a hypothesis. Guide younger students by asking questions such as: How many are in the jar? How much does this weigh? What will happen if we add something else? Advanced students will be capable of more in-depth predictions or hypotheses, based on what they know already.

Controlling variables – Many different factors can affect the outcome of an experiment. You can help students understand this by discussing potential factors before starting. This provides context.

After doing an experiment, encourage them to change one variable factor and try again.

Interpreting – This skill is closely related to inferring, which means coming to a conclusion after analyzing information. Interpreting, is inferring, from a point of view. Two students may interpret an experiment’s results differently.

Students should try to understand results, based on the records they keep. Their interpretation should align with the trend or big picture of the experiment.

If students are not sure why an experiment turned out the way it did, you can direct them to do more research.

Communicating – This skill touches every other one. Students must be able to transmit information through words, charts, diagrams, and other mediums.

You should emphasize to students the importance of using correct language when communicating with an audience (teachers/parents, family, friends/classmates).

Discuss with them, also, the importance of using accurate supporting mediums (charts, diagrams, etc.). As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Audience members will often look at the pictures from a project without reading the words. That can lead them to one or more incorrect takeaways.

Forming conclusions – This skill is connected to interpreting. Students cannot make conclusions hastily; they must be reached through careful reasoning.

When forming conclusions, have your students look back at their predictions and compare them with the actual results. Make sure they take all the information they gathered into account as they draw a conclusion.

Science skills involved in the scientific method

Many of these skills can be taught by using the scientific method. The four steps of the scientific method are to make observations, make a hypothesis, test your hypothesis, and make a conclusion. Each step of the scientific method may include many science skills, such as interpreting data while forming a conclusion, or controlling variables while testing a hypothesis.

These skills are best taught through hands-on science: activities, experiments, and projects. The skills at the top of the list are the easiest to master and can be introduced to young children through nature studies. Teach the more challenging skills by using successively more difficult experiments over time.

While not all skills may be taught at once, a good science lesson will incorporate several of these skills. Remember, as a teacher, you should always move from material that is concrete or familiar, to material that is more complex or abstract. Start with observing and move towards predicting a result, interpreting what happened, or forming a conclusion. These skills can be reinforced on a regular basis, making scientists out of any learner.


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