For this activity, we will be using a Mythbusters Shark Week! experiment studying sharks and color choices in order to investigate the process of scientific inquiry. I have used "Seeing Red" 4 minute clip, found as video number three on the Mythbusters Sharkweek! webpage. However, you could use any Mythbusters clip you like, shark related or not!
The document we use for observation and analysis is not specific to either of the clips referenced above, so feel free to personalize this activity to meet the needs and interests of your class by substituting any clip you like. :) I like this clip because the team performs an experiment and then has to redesign their experimental methods as they realize other variables influenced their initial data set. This allows for a great discussion about what variables are and how scientists control for them so that their independent variable is the only factor in play as they analyze their results.
1. Start out by asking students if they know about this show called "Mythbusters." Before you even finish the sentence (you can be dramatic by making a big display about not being clear on the name of the show), students will be shouting 'Yes!" and discussing how much they like it.
2. At that point, keep the introduction very short, saying that we will be viewing a short clip together to start the class. Giving very little content introduction/connections at this point increases the engagement and excitement of getting to watch a 'cool' show in class.
3. After the clip is over, ask students to talk briefly with their lab group about what they saw.
1. After the initial viewing and share out of perspectives, tell students that they will be watching this clip again, but this time, the focus will be on what they are seeing in relation to previous discussions about scientific inquiry (data, independent and dependent variables, controls).
2. After the class watches the video a second time, pass out the discussion guide.
3. Students work with their lab groups to discuss and complete the guide.
4. Share out/review the guide together as a large group using the spokesperson routine to answer clarifying questions and reinforce key terms.
1. Ask students to turn to the second page of the discussion guide which gives them the opportunity to create their own scientific inquiry scenario, connecting it to our key terms.
2. Students will work at their lab tables in their lab groups (3-4 students per group) to complete the activity. See attached sample of student work for more information.
3. Use the spokesperson routine to share out creative group experiments and link to the vocabulary of scientific inquiry.
This year, I ran across this great podcast on National Public Radio about a recent study linking hours of sleep with cold infections. After our Mythbusters lesson, I asked students to listen to or read through the story using the NPR web link and to identify the steps of the scientific method. We were able to review the idea of independent and dependent variable, discuss the details of an experimental design, the differences between data and conclusion statements, and dig a little deeper into the idea of causality vs. correlation. I feel this additional step the day after our initial introduction really helped support student understanding of the scientific method.