A scientifically literate society is absolutely essential to our prosperity and if we are to develop such a society, it is important to catch them young. Toward this, my students and I have a common goal in making an effort within our expertise to come up with experiments that can make science fun and exciting for elementary school children. We are developing experiments that not only help children understand fundamental and important concepts in animal behavior using insects but also help them understand the basic ideas underlying the scientific method. We focus on concepts such as observational versus experimental science, how natural observations lead to more directed questions, how to form hypotheses and design experiments to test them, and how to collect quantitative data, analyze and interpret them.
We work with local elementary schools and discuss various ideas with teachers regarding content and feasibility. We develop the experiments in the lab with undergraduates taking a major role in troubleshooting them with numerous dry runs so that experiments have a high chance of success in the classroom. Since animal behavior experiments are notoriously fickle and our young participants have short attention spans, we strive to make sure than an experiment will work in the classroom by coming up with a pretty detailed plan. The whole experiment is broken into many steps, each of which can be easily understood and executed by the children, also giving them the scope for taking on different roles in doing the experiment. The experiments have been quite successful and popular with both children and teachers alike and we have had a lot of fun ourselves in interacting with children and understanding how they perceive and think about things.
This page is intended to provide a resource for interested parties to use these experiments in their own efforts to take science to a young audience. We provide details in terms of preparation, printable activity packets, possible pitfalls and how to deal with them. Please free to email me regarding any questions or feedback for these activities.
1. Creatures of Comfort: Does temperature influence the habitat of animals?
2. It is more complicated than driving to the grocery store: How do animals search for food?
3. There's enough food for all: How do animals distribute themselves in relation to food?
4. More Bang for Your Buck: How to forage optimally