Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Up, Up and Away with the Scientific Method

Cis Thurston
Palm Beach County Schools

Description

Up, Up and Away with the Scientific Method introduces the scientific method to kick off the school year or as science fair time arrives. Help your students use the scientific method to design a way for a balloon to be suspended between the floor and ceiling.

Objectives

The student plans and investigates experiments in which hypotheses are formulated based on cause and effect relationships; distinctions are made among observations, conclusions/inferences and predictions; a limited number of variables are controlled; and numerical data that are contradictory or unusual in experimental results are recognized.

Materials

-11” Helium-filled latex balloons with 5 feet of light thread attached, one per group
-Several 11” non-helium balloons
-Sharp pin
-Timing device
-Paper cups
-Paper clips
-Chenille sticks
-2” x 12” Strips of aluminum foil
-Popsicle sticks or pencils
-Clothespins
-Scissors
-Pencils
-Balloon Float Design Worksheet (See Associated File), one per group
-Up, Up and Away Itinerary (See Associated File), one per student
-Balloon Float Certificate (See Associated File), one per student
-Student science journals

Preparations

1. Get a timing device such as a stopwatch, clock or watch with a sweep second hand, or a digital clock that measures seconds.
2. Run off the Balloon Float Design Worksheet (See Associated File) for each group.
3. Copy the Up, Up and Away Itinerary and a certificate for each student. (See Associated File)
4. Collect for each group 1 paper cup, 1 clothespin, 1 paper clip, 2” x 12” strip of of aluminum foil, 1 chenille stick, 1 popsicle stick, a pair of scissors and a pencil.
5. Buy one 11” helium balloon for each group plus replacements for popping.
6. Get a sharp pin to conceal between your fingers.
7. Get and blow up 5 regular 11” balloons.
8. Practice popping balloons with a pin hidden between your fingers.

Procedures

Note: Students should be familar with the scientific method. Divide students into groups and assign various roles (e.g. leader, materials manager, reader, recorder).

1. Pass a balloon back and forth between the students and the teacher as you would when you play with a balloon. Then pop the balloon with the pin concealed between your fingers to make a LARGE noise!

2. After the surprise, go back and get two more balloons, one helium and one “regular,” and begin to pass the balloons but release them early so you are not near a student. React when one balloon rises and the other falls to the ground. Retrieve the ceiling balloon, get a new balloon and repeat the letting go.

3. Ask the class to speculate why the balloons did what they did. Key in on the concept of floating.

4. Ask the students if they think they could design an experiment to solve a problem. Listen and respond to class’s speculations encouraging a positive response.

5. Propose to the students this problem: Can they suspend a balloon between the floor and ceiling for thirty seconds using only the supplies that are on their table (paper cup, paper clip, chenille stick, aluminum foil, popsicle stick, clothespin)? Let the students think. Wait to acknowledge responses.

6. Ask them first if they know what the word “suspend” means. Discuss the meaning. (Suspend means that no part of the balloon’s design touches any object.) Be sure to stress that scientists must have a common language to share knowledge.

7. Review with the students the scientific method to solve a problem.

8. To begin the experimental portion of the lesson follow these steps.

Step 1--Discuss Problem: Ask the students to tell you what the problem is? Define your problem: Can we suspend a balloon for thirty seconds between the floor and ceiling using the given materials? Ask the students to decide (with your guidance) what “rules” need to be followed. Discuss how these rules establish controls and variables.

Illicit the following rules:
-These are the given materials: paper cup, paper clip, chenille stick, aluminum foil, popsicle stick, clothespin.
-The materials may be cut, folded, stapled, applied in any manner at the decision of the group. These are the variables.
-The balloon and its string may not be changed (control). If the balloon string is cut, you can not get the balloon off the ceiling.
-The teacher is the time keeper (control).
-The design team must notify the teacher that they require her services.
-The teacher starts the float by using the stopwatch to time the thirty seconds.
-The teacher is the arbitrator of interference.

Step 2--Discuss Hypotheses: Ask the students what their hypothesis would be. Hypothesize: Yes, I can design a balloon float that I can suspend between floor and ceiling for 30 seconds.

Step 3--Design an Experiment: Pass out to the materials manager the Balloon Float Design Worksheet for the group and the Up, Up and Away Itinerary for each student. (See Associated File) The leader of the group makes sure that all the students in the group participate. Students are to hypothesize in their group a design to solve the problem. The recorder is to record the group's designs on the Balloon Float Design Worksheet. The recording may be in the form of a written proposal or it can be a drawn diagram (or both). Walk around the room, encouraging the students to brainstorm among themselves and to record their designs. Be available to accept their proposals. As the members of the groups interact, formative assessments are made especially with their ability to cooperate to make a joint design. The designs must be on the paper. The quality of design or neatness is not as important as that they have designed a way to float the balloon. Give out the helium balloons after acceptance of the proposal. Let the students try to suspend the balloon by attempting their designs. Allow and encourage revising their designs to take into account the data they have received from being unsuccessful.

Step 4--Do the Experiment: The students are given their helium balloon to put their design concept into action. As you walk around the room, be sure the students record their designs completely, and give feedback as necessary.

Step 5--Gather Data: The students record their observations and thoughts on their own copy of the Up, Up and Away Itinerary. (This itinerary will eventually be put into their science journals.)

Step 6--Conclusion: The students reflect on how successful they were. They record conclusions, changes to be made, and predictions of the success of their new design on the Up, Up and Away Itinerary. Walk around the room to the various groups inquiring why does their balloon sink or hit the ceiling. What is causing it to do so? Channel the students into using scientific terms. The balloon is heavier than air, the balloon is denser than the air or the balloon is less dense. What must they do to their design to bring about the correct result?

Repeat Steps 3-6 until successful.

9. Encourage the students to listen to the ideas of others. Be sure they record their succesful design on their Balloon Float Design Worksheet.

Assessments

Formative assessment occurs as the teacher circulates during the designing and experimenting stages. Observe the students as they use the scientific method to plan and investigate the experiment. The Up, Up and Away Itinerary (See Associated File) provides formative assessment of the student’s ability to observe their experiment, draw a conclusion, make an inference, revise their designs based on the cause and effect of weight on the balloon and predict what the changes will do for the float.

Extensions

1. Extend the time to do the design on the first day and perform the testing of the balloon float on the second day.
2. Write a story about a miniature character able to float in a balloon.
3. Research the history of ballooning. (See Weblinks)

Web Links

Web supplement for Up, Up and Away with the Scientific Method
Balloon HQ:Why do helium-filled balloons float?

Web supplement for Up, Up and Away with the Scientific Method
Balloon

Web supplement for Up, Up and Away with the Scientific Method
Nova Online/Balloon Race Around The World

Web supplement for Up, Up and Away with the Scientific Method
Nova Online/Balloon Race Around The World History of Ballooning

Web supplement for Up, Up and Away with the Scientific Method
Nova Online/Balloon Race Around The World History of Ballooning

Web supplement for Up, Up and Away with the Scientific Method
How Things Works Powerpoint: Balloon

Web supplement for Up, Up and Away with the Scientific Method
Solo Spirit

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