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Looking Like a Scientist

The Classroom Laboratory

Question: How does a scientist look?
Answer: Carefully.

Most students are natural born scientists because they are curious and ask a lot of questions. It is the nature of a scientific mind to observe (watch) something and want to know more. Your observations can help you to understand what is going on in nature and to predict what else might happen.

A vernal pool grassland is a great place for scientists of all ages to explore nature because so little is known about this ecosystem. Each plant and animal has a story to tell about how it makes its living in this harsh environment. You can discover these stories by asking questions and making careful observations. That is: By looking and thinking like a scientist!

Your classroom will become a laboratory as you grow your own Fairy Shrimp from cysts. Within a few days the cysts will hatch into microscopic Fairy Shrimp, which will soon grow large enough for you to observe. As you watch them you will probably come up with many questions about them. You can use the scientific method of answering questions by conducting an experiment. Your practice question is: “Do all Fairy Shrimp hatch at the same time?”

Conducting an Experiment

An experiment is divided into four parts and reported in a Lab Report:

  • Hypothesis
  • Methods
  • Results and Discussion
  • Conclusions

Hypothesis

The first thing a scientist does is to turn a question into a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a statement or prediction that can be proved true or false. How would our question look as a hypothesis?

Question: Do all Fairy Shrimp hatch at the same time?
Hypothesis: All Fairy Shrimp cysts hatch at the same time.

Methods

Next, you will need to think of methods (ways) to collect data (information) to test your hypothesis. How would you know if all the Fairy Shrimp cysts hatched at the same time? The cysts are too small for you to observe. Suppose you counted the Fairy Shrimp every day for three weeks? If the number of Fairy Shrimp did not increase over time, you could say that they probably all hatched at the same time.

For this experiment, your class will divide into five teams of scientists. Your team will observe the Fairy Shrimp on the same day of the week for three weeks. Each member of the team will count the Fairy Shrimp and record this data and other observations on a Student Data Sheet. The team will average its counts for the day and provide a single Average Daily Count to the class. You will describe how you collected your data in the Methods section of your Lab Report.

Results and Discussion

Lots of unexpected things can happen in an experiment. Sometimes you discover things you never imagined. Sometimes all the Fairy Shrimp die. When it comes time to figure out what happened, the students who are careful observers and recorders make the best detectives. Remember: A good scientist is a good detective.

Your class will analyze (examine) the Average Daily Counts by making a graph of the data. The graph will help you to see if the number of Fairy Shrimp increased, decreased or stayed the same over the observation period. The Results and Discussion section of your Lab Report is the place to present your graph and explain what it means.

Conclusions

In the Conclusions section of your Lab Report you will state whether your hypothesis is true or false and why you reached that conclusion (final decision). Think up another question that you would like to investigate to better understand the lives of Fairy Shrimp. What would your hypothesis be?

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