Enquiry in Science

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?

IMG_1109 (800x417)

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.

This detergent "pushed" the food colouring from the centre of this bowl of milk, almost to the sides.
This detergent “pushed” the food colouring from the centre of this bowl of milk, almost to the sides…..
...whilst this detergent didn't affect the food colouring much, indicating that it is not as good at disturbing fat molecules.
…whilst this detergent didn’t affect the food colouring much, indicating that it is not as good at disturbing fat molecules, and therefore, not as good at washing dishes.

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.  

Shivani measures the extent of the disturbance
Shivani measures the extent of the disturbance

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.

A poetic title for Nikita's investigation
A poetic title for Nikita’s investigation
A poster by Sejal--possibly with a glittering marketing career in front of her?
A poster by Sejal. Does she have a glittering career in marketing in front of her?

2 comments

  1. i wish even i could do this and find out which is the best dish washing-liquid out of the three…………it is really fun to do it 🙂

  2. And to think, all those years I used Vim instead of Dettol! I loved this post & the girls’ work. I hope they are proud of all the work they are doing and the excellent skills they are learning and sharpening.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s