Inquiry Strategies
for the Journey North Teacher

Planning Science Investigations

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Homing in on Hypotheses
Hypotheses are tentative explanations that scientists make after observing objects or events. They are based on their observations, current scientific understanding, and previous knowledge or experiences, and they typically lead to investigations. Use these approaches to help students connect to this important aspect of science inquiry.

Focus on Scientists
When youngsters read about student or professional scientists, or view their video clips, have them ponder and respond to these types of questions:

  • What is the team's hypothesis?
  • What do you think they had already observed or known that led to that hypothesis?
  • What other hypothesis or explanation do you think could be valid, and why?
  • How could it be tested? How did the data support (or disprove) the hypothesis?
  • What new questions did it raise?
What it Looks Like
After observing that monarchs roosted on the same tree and branch that a larger group had roosted on nights before, scientist Bill Calvert hypothesized that scent attracted the second batch of butterflies to roost. (He knew from his previous work and general science knowledge that insects have aromatic chemicals called pheromones that attract others of their species.) He then conducted an investigation to test his hypotheses. In this case, his hypothesis turned out to be incorrect so he considered other potential explanations for the behavior.

Practice Posing Hypotheses
As students observe a phenomenon in schoolyard, examine migration data, or view video clips of the migratory animals they're tracking, ask them to put forth hypotheses to explain what they've seen (e.g., Hummingbirds migrate when red flowers start to open). Then ask, What have you observed or learned already that lead you to pose that explanation? How could we go about testing it?

Planning Science Investigations Links