How Do You Do Science?

By making observations about the world, experiments can be designed that test for a dependent variable, which depends on the independent variable (that the scientist controls).

About Doing Science

You are making observations about the world all of the time. You may notice that it’s cold outside, that it’s raining, that your friend has a pink shirt on, that a drink has spilled on the ground, or that someone has food caught in their teeth. Most of the time, these observations happen and they cause some sort of reaction: You put on a hoodie in order to warm up, grab an umbrella, compliment your friend, clean up the drink, or tell the person that they have food in their teeth.

However, sometimes you observe something and then you wonder why it happened the way it did. This is the birth of science! Scientists are no different than anyone else – in fact, anyone can be a scientist. When you are doing science, you are asking questions and then going through a process to answer them. We’ve already seen some parts of the scientific method: Making hypotheses, collecting data and drawing conclusions are all part of the scientific process. But how do you go about actually answering the questions?

The Black-Eyed Peas (the group, not the bean)

Typically, scientists do not work alone when answering scientific questions. There is way too much scientific knowledge for any one person to remember all of it. In fact, for any one branch of science (biology, physics, chemistry, geology, etc.), there are hundreds more branches, and finding an “expert” who knows all that there is to know for any one of those smaller branches is nearly impossible. For example, the bacterium E. coli is such a well-studied bacterium that thousands of scientists research and study it, write papers and books about it, and go to conferences to talk about it. Yet, no one person has all of the information about E. coli – these scientists still must work in groups in order to put all of the information together.

Black-eyed peas (the bean, not the group)

This works for your life, too: think about your favorite musician or group. Do you know everything there is to know about them? What if you got in a group of people who knew a lot about this musician or group? How many people do you think it would take to form a group who knew everything there was to know? And do you think it might be useful to include people who had a different favorite musician or group?

Many people think that the internet has the answers to all of the questions, but this is definitely not true. For example, if you tried typing, “Who is the best football player in the world?” into Google, you would not only get websites that talk about soccer, but you get over 33 million results! If you get a group of people together who have studied football for a long time, they would more accurately be able to come to a conclusion than the internet currently can.

An incandescent light bulb

So far, we’ve only talked about simple questions: the questions that books and the internet are very good at answering. Scientists are much more interested in open-ended questions. To answer these types of questions, scientists design experiments. Experiments are actually very basic, so let’s take a simple one: does a plant need light in order to grow?

First of all, the question needs to be more specific. What kind of plant? What kind of light? What is meant by “grow”? So, let’s use a black-eyed pea plant, a normal incandescent light bulb (like the kind you use in your house), and let’s say that “grow” means to make a leaf that’s longer than one centimeter. Now, our question is: can a black-eyed pea plant grow at least a one-centimeter leaf with only incandescent light?

After we make our hypothesis (go ahead, make your own right now), then we can design our experiment. Clearly, we’re going to need some black-eyed peas, some soil, some water, an incandescent light and a metric ruler. Those are our materials. Now, we need to identify the independent and dependent variables.

Black-eyed pea plant

Independent and dependent variables are related to one another. The independent part is what you, the experimenter, change in order to do your experiment. The dependent variable is what changes when the independent variable changes – the dependent variable depends on the outcome of the independent variable. What are you going to change in order to do this experiment? Think about it … it’s the light!

So, the incandescent light is the independent variable, which means that we’re going to need two plants: a plant that grows with the light bulb and a plant that grows without the light bulb. In fact, the experiment will go even better if we use more than one plant, so let’s try growing three plants with the light bulb and three plants without the light bulb. The plants in the light are called the experimental group and the plants without the light are called the control group.

Experimental Group ¼ cup water 8 hours incandescent light 75 F
Control Group ¼ cup water 8 hours sunlight 75 F

Black-eyed pea Experiment

The experimental group always contains what we are testing for, while the control group usually contains what we know normally works. So, in the control group, we’ll give the black-eyed peas ¼ cup of water every day and we’ll let them sit in the sun for eight hours every day at 75 degrees F (did you notice how the experiment got even more specific?). This means that in the experimental group, we also need to give them ¼ cup of water every day and let them sit underneath the light bulb for exactly eight hours at 75 degrees F. A good scientific experiment has one and only one change between the control group and the experimental group (or, in some cases, groups).

If we design our experiment in this way, we’ll be able to say if eight hours underneath an incandescent light bulb works to grow one centimeter leaves better or worse than eight hours in the sunlight, at 75 degrees F. However, we cannot draw any conclusions past that: we can’t say that it will work at 30 degrees F, that it will work with any amount of light, or that you can use any amount of water. In other words, your conclusions need to be as specific as your experiment!

1. What is:
a) An experimental group?
b) A control group?
2. What do you need in order to have a good scientific question?
3. Summarize the experiment performed in the passage using the Describing Wheel.
Put it together
4. Why do scientists work in groups?
5. Describe the relationship between an independent and dependent variable.
Think about it
6. Let's say that the experiment in the passage turned out to show that an incandescent light bulb actually made the plants grow leaves, but you noticed that those leaves were a lighter green color. How would you go about designing an experiment to test the effect of the type of light on the color of the leaf? Include:
a) The independent variable
b) The dependent variable
c) The control group
d) The methods (procedures or steps) to follow
7. Name a famous theory about anything that you are familiar with.
Ethics of Heart Transplants

By Tom Cohen
Associated Press

A 79-year-old Canadian’s new heart isn’t really that new, and his operation has kindled debate on transplant surgery ethics.
Ray Nelson was 14 years older than what previously was considered the maximum age for undergoing a transplant. And the heart he received from a 55-year-old donor normally would have gone unused because of its advanced age.
Unlike Canada, the United States has no age limit for potential transplant patients or organ donors. Cases are based on whether the individual is healthy enough for the operation, and the condition of the organ to be donated.
But Nelson’s Dec. 27 operation led to questions in Canada, where fewer than 200 heart transplants are performed each year.
“One has to wonder whether or not the process was being manipulated to provide some advantage to someone who otherwise might not be eligible,” said Dr. Douglas Kinsella, a lecturer on medical ethics at the University of Calgary.
Nelson, a director of a bank, is well-known in provincial business and political circles. He is also a friend of Dr. Dennis Modry, an Edmonton heart transplant specialist.
Complications after a bypass operation last year forced Nelson, an active man who used to swim at least 50 laps a day, to be hospitalized in September. Ten days after his transplant at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, he was sitting up and talking.
Dr. Arvind Koshal, regional director of the hospital’s cardiac science program, acknowledged the committee of cardiologists, social workers and others that approved the transplant took unusual steps.
While 65 had been considered the maximum age for a transplant, that was never “carved in stone,” Koshal said.
He said the transplant committee asked the hospital’s ethics board for guidance in Nelson’s case. The ethics board said that while age alone should not be the determining factor, it also noted that patients needing hearts far exceed the number of donor organs available. As many as 6,000 Canadians are considered possible candidates for a heart transplant.
After “rigorous debate,” Koshal said, the transplant committee voted in a secret ballot to permit a transplant, but only if Nelson received a heart that would otherwise go unused.
Hearts from donors older than 50 normally get used only for “status four” patients, meaning emergency cases in which “somebody is going to die otherwise,” Koshal said.
When the heart of a 55-year-old brain dead patient became available, he said, no emergency cases were pending. Two independent cardiologists on the transplant committee decided the heart was not appropriate for others on the eligibility list, so Nelson got it, Koshal said.
Glenn Griener of the University of Alberta’s John Dossetor Health Ethics Center questioned whether giving Nelson the heart “amounts to substandard medical care.”
“I haven’t seen a coherent rationale for using this organ,” he said.
Kinsella said the transplant committee’s lengthy review was unusual and seemed intended to counter any accusations that Nelson “jumped the queue” for a transplant.
To Koshal, the decision hinged on whether cardiac patients younger than Nelson could wait for “a better heart.”
“It’s not that we’re giving him (Nelson) a bad heart,” Koshal said. “It’s that we’re giving him one better than what he had and would give him a better quality of life.”


  1. Identify and define at least six vocabulary terms from the article.
  2. Make a Venn Diagram of 3 pros, 3 cons, and in the middle, a brief summary of what the issue is.
  3. Where do you stand on this issue? Write a two paragraph letter to a member of the government, making sure to reference at least three pieces of evidence from the article in your response.
What Is It?

In this experiment, give your Mystery Matter something to eat and drink. Then, use your list of characteristics of life to decide whether you think it is an organism.


  • hand lens
  • 1 packet of Mystery Matter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup hot tap water (roughly 43 degrees C, or 105 – 120 degrees F)
  • 4 clear plastic bottles with labels removed
  • 4 balloons
  • measuring spoons (1/4 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon)
  • measuring cup (1/2 cup)
  • funnel
  • glucose strips or indicator solution for the presence of glucose
  • hot plate


  1. Use the hand lens to take a close look at the Mystery Matter. Record your observations.
  2. On a separate sheet of paper, make a chart like the one on the next page. Leave enough room in each category to record your observations for each bottle.
  3. Number each of your four bottles and assemble the test setups as follows:
    1. place the funnel in the mouth of Bottle 1
    2. add the amount of mystery matter listed in the chart below
    3. add the amount of sugar listed in the chart below
Bottle Mystery Matter Sugar Hot Water
1 (control) ¼ tsp. none ½ cup
2 ¼ tsp. ¼ tsp. ½ cup
3 ¼ tsp. ½ tsp. ½ cup
4 ¼ tsp. 1 tsp. ½ cup
  1. Repeat the above procedure using Bottles 2-4.
  2. Use the measuring cup to pour the amount of hot water listed into each bottle and gently agitate each bottle to mix everything together.
  3. Dip a glucose strip into Bottle 1. Record the results. Repeat with Bottles 2-4.
  4. Squeeze all the air out of a balloon and slip it over the mouth of one of the bottles. Do the same with the remaining three bottles.
  5. Gently stir the contents of each bottle to mix the materials. Make sure none of the materials remains clumped at the bottom of the bottles.
  6. Record the appearance of the bottles. Predict what will happen in each bottle after 30 minutes and after 24 hours.
  7. After 15 minutes, gently stir the contents of the bottles. Record your observations of the balloons and the contents. Repeat after 30 minutes.
  8. After 24 hours, record your observations of the balloons and the contents.
  9. Remove the balloons. Test the bottles with glucose strips and record your results.
  10. Provide an explanation for any changes you see. Using what you know about the characteristics of life, what can you conclude about the Mystery Matter?
    Time Bottle Turbidity Froth Balloon Inflation Glucose Presence
    Initially 1
    15 minutes 1
    30 minutes 1
    24 hours 1
Observing Conflict
  1. What are three examples of conflict that you observe in everyday life?
  2. Over the next 2-3 days, fill out the following sheet with up to three conflicts that you observe.
  3. For the “who” part, it’s fine to say “parent” or “friend” instead of names so that it remains anonymous.
Conflict #1 Conflict #2 Conflict #3
Who was involved in the conflict?
Where did the conflict occur? (classroom, home, school, etc.)
What is being done or said? (actions or words)
How did the conflict end?
Measurement & Body Proportion

The science of body measurements and proportion is known as Anthropometry and was developed by Alphonse Bertillion in 1883. It is a technique used to predict or profile a suspect based upon body proportions. It is also used to help to identify the remains of unknown people. Today you are going to compare measurements and determine if there is a correlation, using your results to determine if you can develop the profile of a potential suspect.

Police and forensic investigators are called to the scene of a breaking and entering crime in a residential area. At the scene of the crime, the investigators recover a muddy shoe print outside a broken window. Upon investigation, they determine that it is a male size 8, Nike tennis shoe. On the window sill is a hand print which measures 15cm. Develop a profile of the suspect or suspects. Is this evidence of one suspect or two? Upon what evidence do you base your conclusions?

Name Male shoe size Female shoe size Length of shoe Length of foot
Joseph 14 30cm 26cm
Brandy 10 16cm 13cm

Shoe Measurement Table (includes examples)

  1. Record your shoe size. Make sure you tell the difference between male and female.
  2. Measure the length of the sole of your shoe in centimeters. Record.
  3. Measure the length of your foot in centimeters. Record.
  4. Record the information for every student in the group in your chart.
Name Length of Face Circumference of Head Length of Profile

Head Measurement Table

  1. Measure the length of your face in centimeters. Your face is considered to be from your hairline to the tip of your chin. Record.
  2. Measure the circumference of your head in centimeters. Measure from 4cm above your eyebrows around your head (your hat size). Record.
  3. Measure the length of your profile in centimeters. This is from the top of your head to the edge of your jaw. Record the data.
  4. Record the information for every student in the group.
Name Length of Hand Wrist Length of Forearm

Arm Measurement Table

  1. Measure the length of your hand from the tip of your middle finger to the base of your palm in centimeters. Record.
  2. Measure the distance around your wrist in centimeters. Record.
  3. Measure the length of your forearm from the base of your palm to the inside of your elbow in centimeters. Record.
  4. Record the information for every student in the group.
Name Height Wingspan

Wingspan Measurement Table

  1. Measure your height from the top of your head to the soles of your feet in centimeters. Record.
  2. Measure your wingspan from the tip of your right hand middle finger across your body to the tip of your middle finger of your left hand in centimeters, with your arms fully extended. Record.
  3. Record the information for every student in the group.
  4. Help the class combine the data for all of the students. Using this data make graphs with:
    1. Shoe size on the X axis and length on the Y axis
    2. Length of profile on the X axis and circumference on the Y axis
    3. Length of the hand on the X axis and the wrist and forearm on the Y axis
    4. Height on the X axis and wingspan on the Y axis
  5. For each of the graphs, answer:
    1. Is there a correlation between the X and Y axis?
    2. What does this graph tell you?
  6. Based on this information, give a profile of the suspect at the crime scene.
Human Basic Needs
  1. Get in a group of 3 – 4 students.
  2. In two minutes, decide what are the five most common conflicts and write each one on a separate Post-it note.
  3. On the drawing of a tree in the front of the room, have a group member place the Post-its on the branches according to where you think they belong.
  4. Most conflicts happen due to one of the five basic needs below not being met. After reading the basic needs below, come up with one more conflict and place it on a Post-it and on the tree.
Basic Need Description
Belonging Loving, sharing, co-operating, “fitting in” with others
Power Feeling important, being respected
Freedom Making choices
Fun Laughing, playing, finding joy in life
Security Feeling safe from put-downs, ridicule
  1. For one of the basic needs, write and perform a one-minute skit that does the following:
    1. Shows how someone can be denied that basic need through conflict
    2. Shows how that conflict can be resolved with everyone involved getting something that they want
    3. Shows how important that basic need is to human life
Problem Group Members
  1. What type(s) of problem group members can you be?
  2. Choose two other types of problem group members. For each type (including your own type, for a total of three) that you identified in #1:
    1. What do you notice as the biggest problem?
    2. What is something specific and constructive that you can do to deal with them?
Member What They Do What You Can Do


Appears not to be involved
May be outspoken
Feels their contribution is not wanted
Ask for their contributions
Break into smaller groups
Remind them of how important they are


Very confident that they are correct
Always has an answer
Very intimidating
Uses big words
Compliment them on their knowledge
Remind them that other peoples’ opinions are valuable, too
Ask them for practical experiences

Alley Cat



Tries to bring other people down

Remind them of the group’s taskAsk them about their feelings

Ask them how their behavior helps the group


ImpatientEager to give contributions

Wants attention and the center stage

Recognize the interruption and move onTell them when there is enough time for their contribution

Ask them for time for others to give their point of view


Makes fun or jokes during serious discussionDoes not take the issues seriously Ask them how their remarks are helpfulRemind them of the issues and the task at hand

Ignore them or ask them to play a bigger role for the group


Has other things to doLoses the focus of the discussion Remind them of the taskAsk them with specific questions

Deal with their issues during a break or another time


Disruptive to the rest of the teamDraws attention to themselves

Shows a lack of commitment

Too many things going on

Sets attendance policy for the groupRemind them of their importance to the task

One-on-one, ask them if they want to be part of the group


DistractingHas other things they want to do

Often sits with a friend

Pause until disruption stopsAsk them to share with the whole group

Ask them a question


Needs to be convincedSees the bottle as “half-empty”

Always negative

Appreciate and work off of their criticismsGet others to give them facts

Ask them to consider everything before judging

Chipmunk (None named Bob)

ImpatientWants to rush decisions

High energy

Give them a taskTell them finding agreement takes longer

Help them see the “big picture”

Type Biggest Problem Something Specific to Do
Other Person: ____________
Other Person: ____________
You: ___________________
“I” Statements

Students often feel an emotion because of a situation brought on by another student. This activity is meant to help you figure out ways to get out of a conflict that could result in bigger problems. Practice cooling down by trying a couple examples:

I feel


(frustrated, embarrassed, insulted, worried, sad, etc.)

when _____________________________________________________________

(explain a specific situation)

because ___________________________________________________________

Write an “I” statement for each problem:

You loan a library book to your friend and they lose it I __________________________________________________________________________


Your best friend shows your boy/girlfriend a note you wrote about them I __________________________________________________________________________


The student next to you looks at your work during a test and gets you into trouble I __________________________________________________________________________


Your mother makes you wash the dishes, which makes you late for something you wanted to do I __________________________________________________________________________


Your teacher always calls you by a name that you don’t like to be called. I __________________________________________________________________________


The student who sits behind you in class distracts you by tapping your chair and throwing things at you. I __________________________________________________________________________


Simpsons’ Scientific Method





Smithers thinks that a special juice will increase the productivity of workers. He creates two groups of 50 workers each and assigns each group the same task (in this case, they’re supposed to staple a set of papers). Group A is given the special juice to drink while they work. Group B is not given the special juice. After an hour, Smithers counts how many stacks of papers each group has made. Group A made 1,587 stacks, Group B made 2,113 stacks.

Identify the:

  1. Identify the:
    1. Control Group
    2. Independent Variable
    3. Dependent Variable
  2. What should Smithers’ conclusion be?
  3. How could this experiment be improved?





Homer notices that his shower is covered in a strange green slime. His friend Barney tells him that coconut juice will get rid of the green slime. Homer decides to check this this out by spraying half of the shower with coconut juice. He sprays the other half of the shower with water. After 3 days of “treatment” there is no change in the appearance of the green slime on either side of the shower.

  1. What was the iniitial observation?
  2. Identify the:
    1. Control Group
    2. Independent Variable
    3. Dependent Variable
  3. What should Homer’s conclusion be?





Bart believes that mice exposed to microwaves will become extra strong (maybe he’s been reading too much Radioactive Man). He decides to perform this experiment by placing 10 mice in a microwave for 10 seconds. He compared these 10 mice to another 10 mice that had not been exposed. His test consisted of a heavy block of wood that blocked the mouse food. he found that 8 out of 10 of the microwaved mice were able to push the block away. 7 out of 10 of the non-microwaved mice were able to do the same.

  1. Identify the:
    1. Control Group
    2. Independent Variable
    3. Dependent Variable
  2. What should Bart’s conclusion be?
  3. How could Bart’s experiment be improved?





Krusty was told that a certain itching powder was the newest best thing on the market; it even claims to cause 50% longer lasting itches. Interested in this product, he buys the itching powder and compares it to his usual product. One test subject (A) is sprinkled with the original itching powder, and another test subject (B) was sprinkled with the Experimental itching powder. Subject A reported having itches for 30 minutes. Subject B reported to have itches for 45 minutes.

  1. Identify the:
    1. Control Group
    2. Independent Variable
    3. Dependent Variable
  2. Explain whether the data supports the advertisements claims about its product.





Lisa is working on a science project. Her task is to answer the question: “Does Rogooti (which is a commercial hair product) affect the speed of hair growth”. Her family is willing to volunteer for the experiment.

  1. Describe how Lisa would perform this experiment. Identify the control group, and the independent and dependent variables.
Cavs Graphs
  1. You will make a pie graph showing player points for the Cavs. We will graph only the top five scorers.
    1. Who are the top five scorers? Write down their names and total points scored.
    2. Draw a circle, a dot in the center, and draw a line from the center dot to the side of the circle.
    3. For each player, divide their points by total team points and multiply that number by 100 to get total percentage. Write down these total percentages for each player.
    4. Draw lines to represent the other portions of the circle for each player and label it. Any remaining space should be labeled “Rest of Team”.
  2. You will make a line graph to show the score of the game after each quarter, shown at the top of the box score.
    1. The independent variable is the quarter of the game. Where does the independent variable go?
    2. The dependent variable is the score for each quarter. Where does the dependent variable go?
    3. Find the maximum value for the quarter score in order to get the highest value for the y-axis. Label the quarters on the x-axis. Write your labels on each axis.
    4. Finish the graph by using different colors for the Cavs and the other team.
  3. You will make a bar graph for the type of shot made for the Cavs and the other team. There are Field Goals (FG), 3-Pointers (3P) and Free Throws (FT). The shots made are the first number, while the shots attempted are the second number. You should already know what to do at this point, so now you’re on your own!
Latin & Greek Roots
  1. Make vocabulary flash cards for 20 of the roots.
  2. Using the roots, define the following as best you can:


  • Protozoan
  • Telepsychic
  • Polyphonic
  • Homonym
  • Microgravity
  • Endothermic
  • Heterophilic
  • Osteoscope
  • Ecology
  • Auditorium
  1. Using the roots, invent five words of your own.


  • Define them.
  • For what you feel is your best word, make a sign for it with a picture to hang up in the room.
Bean Plants Progress Report
  1. Has your question changed at all since you started the experiment? Is your independent variable the same? Your dependent variable?
  2. What actual methods did you follow when you planted the beans? Be specific!
  3. Now that you have planted them, has your hypothesis changed at all?
  4. Make a copy of your data table so far.


Learning Styles
Bounce Height Lab


  • Lacrosse ball
  • Post-its
  • Meter stick


  1. Choose three different heights to drop the ball from.
  2. Hypothesize how the bounce height will differ between those three heights.
  3. For each height, drop the ball three times and record the height that the ball bounces.
  4. Take the average of each of the three trials for each height.
  5. Represent your data in a table.
  6. What was the relationship between the height you held the ball and the height it bounced?