Science Problem Solving Activities

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Problem solving is an essential skill for scientists, but thinking in this way can help expand the mind, even for students that aren't pursuing scientific careers. These activities will help your students solve problems like a scientist.

Problem Solving in Science

The world of science is one of constant problems. Scientists have to be able to figure out how to adapt to these problems, think creatively, and work collaboratively on implementing a solution. These activities are designed to help students think about problem solving from a scientific perspective. Even for students who do not intend to pursue the physical sciences, it can be very useful to practice problem solving skills and learn to think like a scientist.

Science Problem Solving Activities

Egg Drop

Divide the class into groups, and give each group a basic set of supplies (this could include paper, tape, a paper towel roll, rubber bands, ponytail holders, paper plates, etc.), as well as one egg. Tell them that their job is to collectively design and create a holder for the egg that will be dropped from a substantial height. The goal is to create a holder that will protect the egg as much as possible. Give students time to work on their egg holders. When they are done, drop them and see what happens. You can use this to talk about physics and/or engineering, as well as how scientists approach a problem.

  • Materials: Eggs, random supplies as desired, a high place from which to drop eggs, and a place that can get eggs on it

Evolution Activity

Divide the class into small groups. Give each group the same picture of a simple creature that lives in the water near the shore. For this activity, you will present a series of scenarios, one at a time. This could be things like a change in climate, the introduction of a new predator, or a rival species that adapted to better access to the food supply. For each scenario, groups will have a few minutes to decide how their species will adapt in order to best survive this new change. Continue this for several rounds. When you're done, have the groups show off the adaptations and see how much their species changed. Did it move to land, or learn to fly? Did it become more predatory, or start reproducing faster, or become camouflaged? Talk about adaptation and evolution with the class.

  • Materials: Images of starting creature, list of scenarios, writing or drawing supplies as desired

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