We are passionate about fostering a love of STEM in pupils, and setting them on a path to be environmental engineers and formulation chemists – but what about those students who are more interested in other subjects? How can they benefit from STEM enrichment? We believe everyone – us adults included – can benefit from learning to think scientifically!
But what is thinking scientifically? There isn’t a singular definition of what it is to ‘think scientifically’. But one explanation is that it is a way of seeking knowledge based on empirical data, rather than ideology. And the great thing is it can be applied to almost anything pupils may want to investigate! The Scientific Process below can be used to explore the interests of all curious minds – not just those interested in STEM!
- Define a question to investigate – This can be anything! Maybe they want to make a paper plane that can fly the furthest. Or perhaps they want to find a way to run faster. Or how to bake the perfect chocolate cake!
- Make predictions – based on their research and understanding, what do they think the outcome will be? What variables will they need to test?
- Gather data – this can be done through research, observation or experiment. In an age of misinformation this skill cannot be underestimated! And it can also be extremely fun.
- Analyse the data – students can explore different ways of presenting data such as graphs, charts, diagrams or photographs. Once they have the data displayed in an appropriate format, then they need to to look for patterns in the variables they are testing.
- Draw conclusions – do their findings support their hypothesis? Is the data unclear? If so they might need to rethink their procedure. If there is a clear conclusion then the results should be written up and shared with others!
Scientific thinking also teaches us how to be a bit more open minded, as it teaches us to assess our biases and how they might affect our judgement. And it also allows us to admit our mistakes and change our mind when evidence shows us – empirically – that we are wrong! Regardless of what the future holds for our students, thinking scientifically is a valuable skill to have!