Descriptive Reduction Exercise
Grade Level: 3rd to High School; Type: All science
The purpose of this exercise is to have students understand and appreciate the importance of firsthand observation in scientific study.
What do we really know about the world around us? What do we take for granted? Assume? Get right? Get wrong? How might such assumptions affect scientific study? How should we go about our own scientific studies?
- Pears (or apples, oranges, etc.)
- Plastic knife
- Plastic pear
- Picture of pear
- Paper and pencil
- Make a large chart with five rows and five columns.
- Label the rows: pear; plastic pear; picture of pear; the word pear; the word pernula (the scientific word for pear).
- Label the columns: Looks, Feels, Sounds, Smells, Tastes.
- Explain to a friend that in this activity he will be researching pears as would a good scientist, assuming nothing, recording only observable data, things he can perceive with one of his five senses.
- Give your friend a pear (you may also give him a knife to cut it up), and have him examine and describe the pear in as much detail as possible, recording his observations in the first row of the chart.
- Give your friend the plastic pear and ask him to fill out the chart using only the observable data.
- Give your friend the picture of the pear and ask him to fill out the chart using only observable data.
- Say the word “pear” to your friend, and ask him to fill out the chart relying only on observable data.
- Say the word “pernula” to your friend and ask him to fill out the chart relying only on observable data.
- Now together consider and discuss the implications of this exercise for scientific study.
- In a science fair setting it is engaging and enlightening to have a stack of charts and a crate of pears, as well as the other items from this project, so that fair-goers can repeat the exercise on their own.
Terms/Concepts: observation, description, data
Warning is hereby given that not all Project Ideas are appropriate for all individuals or in all circumstances. Implementation of any Science Project Idea should be undertaken only in appropriate settings and with appropriate parental or other supervision. Reading and following the safety precautions of all materials used in a project is the sole responsibility of each individual. For further information, consult your state’s handbook of Science Safety.