How to Design an Experiment: Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:05 Purpose of Experiments
  • 0:49 Ask a Clear Question
  • 1:14 What Is Your Hypothesis?
  • 2:09 Constants, Variables,…
  • 3:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

Experiments are tests that scientists perform to make new discoveries and investigate predictions. This lesson will teach you how to design your own simple experiment like a scientist.

Purpose of Experiments

When you think of experiments, you might think of scientists in white lab coats. But if you've ever wondered if your flip-flop could float in water and then actually tried it to see what happened, you've conducted an experiment!

But why do scientists actually perform experiments? It's their job for sure, but what makes experiments so central to what they do as scientists?

Scientists perform experiments to test predictions, but there's more to an experiment than just putting a flip-flop in water to see if it floats. A good experiment follows steps scientists use to test ideas; these steps are called the scientific method.

You can write these steps down to document your experiment the way a scientist does.

Ask a Clear Question

You want to be as specific as possible with the question your experiment will test.

For example, you might wonder, ''What kind of ice cube melts faster?'' But that question isn't very specific and could be hard to test. A clearer question for your experiment would be, ''Do square shaped ice cubes melt faster than half-moon shaped ice cubes?''

Now that you have a clear question, you need a hypothesis.

What is Your Hypothesis?

You may have heard the word 'hypothesis' before, but you might not know what it means. You've almost certainly heard the word 'theory' and probably heard it used interchangeably with 'hypothesis', but they aren't the same thing.

A hypothesis (pronounced hi-POTH-uh-sis) is a statement explaining what you think will happen because of what you've seen happen in the past. It's sometimes called an educated guess.

When you had a glass of juice at your friend's house, they used square ice cubes and you noticed that you finished the drink before they melted. At home when you drink juice with half-moon shaped ice, the cubes are gone by the time you finish your drink.

Therefore, your hypothesis might say that half-moon shaped ice cubes melt faster than square shaped ice cubes.

But there are many things that could affect how fast those cubes melt besides the shape, like the temperature of the juice. Since you're only interested in how the shape affects the ice cube, you'll need to make sure everything else is the same.

Constants, Variables, Conclusions

Constants isn't just an old timey name for a lady. Constants, in this case, are things that are kept the same during the experiment so they don't affect your results.

For your ice melting experiment, you might have the following constant variables for both shapes of ice:

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