There are some skills that are really important to scientists. Teachers can help students build these skills through science activities in school and students can practice them at home. Practicing these skills can be fun, and can make you a better scientist. Here are a few to try.
The science of biology classifies living things into groups that are related to each other in a process called taxonomy. You can practice the skill of classifying. Look at magazine pictures. Do they show living things or non living things? Can you sort your toys into just three groups? What would the names of these groups be? Is a bird an animal? Is a fish an animal? Is an insect an animal? Just what is an animal? Visit our Beanie Baby Classification page for more practice with classifying.
Scientist have to be able to communicate what they discover. Get someone to help you. Explain that you are testing yourself to see how well you can give directions. Ask them to do exactly what you say and only what you tell them. Now try to tell them how to put on a coat, how to go to another room in your house or school, or how to make a sandwich. If they follow your exact instructions, can you explain the job clearly enough to get it done?
Comparing and Contrasting
This skill can be used whenever you use a model to help you understand the properties of an object or a system. Always ask yourself how the model is like the real thing and how it is different. Comparing and contrasting is used whenever you are classifying.
Models can help us understand something which is too large, too small, or too complicated to see and understand easily. Visit our Solar System Model page and our What Causes Winter page for some astronomy models. Whenever you make a drawing or take a photograph of something you see, you are creating a model. Graphs and charts are models too.
Gathering and Organizing Data
Keep a journal of plant and animal observations this spring and summer. When did you see the first robin? How many dandelions flower on your lawn and how many seeds does each flower make? How many new plants would that make? How often does it rain? How well does the garden grow? What data tells you that the garden is or isn't growing well? Is it the number of tomatoes that were picked or how little the rose leaves got eaten?
Scientists record many of their observations as measurements. Visit our Measuring page and our How Tall Is It? page for measuring activities.
Scientists discover many things by observing details about the world around them. Visit our Observation Games page for some activities that work on this skill.
A prediction is a guess about what you will observe before you make the observation. Weather forecasters make predictions about the weather. Usually you will make better predictions if you have a lot of data to work with or if you can see a pattern in what is happening. Can you predict when family members will get home from school or work? Can you predict when dandelions will flower in your neighborhood? Whenever you are about to make an observation, try to predict what you will observe.