So often traditional education systems discourage the process of enquiry, because it takes time that can be spent on teaching “content”. Of course, school should be the very place to ask questions, pursue ideas, test them, and apply them! We are so fortunate to have the time and resources in ALF to help students hone their natural skills of enquiry. Last week, girls performed an experiment that uses food colouring and milk to show how detergents affect fat molecules. They then applied what they had just seen to a problem–which is the best dish-washing liquid?
First, girls developed plans for how to approach the investigation. Once their experimental design had been approved by a teacher, they got down to work, testing each of the three liquids systematically.
After a little practice at the experimental technique, students were encouraged to be more critical of their methods, and refine them so that chances for errors and faulty results were reduced. They did the experiments again, this time being more attentive to accuracy in measuring and setting up. Girls carefully measured the length of the disturbance to the milk, and recorded their data.
Students then analysed their data in Excel. This was the first time they had used a computer program to analyse any sort of data, and the girls just loved being able to create attractive and precise graphs so easily! After that, they spent time at home finding ways to present their scientific method and data, and made recommendations about which is the most effective dish-washing liquid. Below are selected parts of the posters they produced to show their findings. It was very enjoyable to watch the girls go through the whole enquiry process, from planning to execution to analysis and presentation.