Much of the Montessori Elementary (and beyond) curriculum is founded in research, or projects, that are planned and directed by the students. This is something I have always been pretty poor about, to be honest. I'm working on it though and so when Aidan made an observation during an experiment and asked a question that was good for follow up research, I decided to give a lesson on planning a research experiment.
The lesson was fairly unscripted because I wanted them to discover everything they needed to plan on their own. Starting with asking a question this is the plan they came up with. I made notes in the margins about what part of the research plan each of their notes showed. In the future we will have a lesson on the parts of a research plan so they can create their own outlines. The only thing we didn't really show on this page was materials.
Research Question: Do different kinds of vinegar give different reactions?
Experiment: Compare the reactions of 4 kinds of vinegar. Measuring the amount of vinegar and baking soda so it is the same.
Measurement: Video to show the reactions, with a measuring stick to show size. Catching the overflow liquid to compare amounts.
Recording: A table.
Prediction: That there will be a difference between the reactions.
They carefully gathered up all of their materials before they started. I prompted them a bit to make sure they had everything. Then they started "debating" a little bit the best way to run the experiment, so I suggested they run a test set up to make sure that everything worked, video was in the right spot, etc. They took this suggestion to heart and actually ended up doing two test experiments because they found an error the first time (Yeah, for learning mistakes!).
Then they ran the experiment. Caleb did the video and would announce what test it was (Red Wine Vinegar Experiment 1, for example) and then that was Aidan's cue to pour the vinegar.
Results recording was a little tricky because I think they wanted to measure more specifically, but we didn't have anything accurate enough to measure the overflow liquid and their video was too hard to see the measuring stick. We were able to line up the cups from least to most overflow though and there was a distinct difference.
I suggested making observation notes about some of the different reactions instead of trying to measure the size. For example, the red wine vinegar changed from pink/red to purple/blue as a result of the reaction. The rice vinegar reacted MUCH slower than the other three.
Stay tuned for the "presenting" of