Scientific Inquiry Activities for Elementary Students

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

Scientific inquiry is the process of investigating a question or idea and coming up with evidence based answers. This lesson provides several activities to help elementary school kids learn this process.

Scientific Inquiry

Scientific inquiry has several steps that are required in investigating a question. The steps can be used at any age to help students learn how to come up with hypotheses and scientific conclusions about different subjects. The steps are as follows:

  • What is the problem? - This step requires student to come up with the issue they will be addressing.
  • Research - At this point, there has to be research done, in books and the on internet, about the issue.
  • Hypothesis - Now students have to hypothesize what they believe the answer is to the problem.
  • Experiment - Since the students now have an idea, they can do an experiment to see if their hypothesis is correct.
  • Assess the Experiment - After the experiment, the students should analyze what happened, and whether it fit with their hypothesis or not.
  • Conclusion - The students will conclude what they have determined from the previous processes.

Although scientific inquiry can involve a whole new vocabulary and can tend to be complex, it can still be relatable for elementary school students. The following activities will help young kids learn this type of inquiry.


Water and Oil

At this age, simple questions can still help young students learn the process of scientific inquiry.

Ingredients needed:

  • Water
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Two Measuring Cups
  • Food scale

For this activity, have the students start with the question:

''What is heavier: oil or water?''

This is your problem question. Have each of the students talk about instances they have seen water and oil used. You can also read a book about how oil is created, and where water comes from. From here, have the students hypothesize which they believe is heavier. Once each student has provided their thoughts, then the fun can begin.

  1. Take the cup and place it on the scale, zero it out so that it will not measure the cup.
  2. Place oil in the measuring cup, stop at the one cup line.
  3. When the scale states the weight, write that down, or have your students write it down.
  4. Repeat with the water.

Once the kids have the weights written down for both, then they can assess what is heavier in the data they have. Then they can conclude the experiment with their determination.

Egg Safety

For older kids in elementary school a sure winner for students is the egg drop.

Ingredients needed:

  • Four Eggs
  • Ziploc Bags
  • Water
  • Cotton
  • Ice
  • Play Dough

The question for this activity is:

''How do you keep a raw egg from cracking when dropping it from six feet in the air?''

From here, you have students do research on the products you brought to the classroom to surround the egg before it is dropped. They can feel the play dough and the cotton, do some research on how they are made and where it comes from. Then the students need to choose which of the products (water, cotton, ice, or play dough) will keep the egg from cracking. They can choose more than one. Once everyone in the class has a hypothesis then it is time for the experiments.

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