Observation is a key ability for all scientists to possess. It is one of those skills that we should emphasize in our homeschool science plans.
But what exactly is observation?
Simply put, observation is taking the time to look at the things going on around you.
It’s intentionally watching what is happening right in front of you.
Our students need to frequently exercise their observation muscles so that they will become strong. There are many ways you can do this in your homeschool, but two of the primary tools you can use are nature study and scientific tests.
Nature study at its core is about taking a closer look at the natural world around us.
Students look at their environment and note the plants and animals they see. They attempt to detect the movement and behaviors of the animals in the area. They note the similarities and differences between the different flowers they observe.
In essence, they search for science in nature using their powers of observation.
Nature study empowers the students to examine and learn about their environment as they exercise their observations muscles.
It can be a scheduled part of your week or a natural extension of your life. But either way, nature study is an indispensable tool you use to increase your students’ observation abilities.
Scientific tests, otherwise known asexperiments, examine the principles of science in a controlled environment.
In the educational setting, these tests serve as the hands-on application for what our students are learning in science. There are two main types of scientific tests that we as homeschoolers routinely use—scientific demonstrations and experiments.
A scientific demonstration allows the students to see the principles of science firsthand. The teacher introduces the students to the scientific method through modeling the process for them. The student focuses on observing what is happening, absorbing the information and storing it for later use. While the student may participate, the teacher remains the driving force behind this type of scientific test.
An experiment is a test or trial done for the purpose of discovering something unknown or validating a theoretical principle. In the educational setting, the student is the driving force behind the experiment, while the teacher plays a more supervisory role. In this type of scientific test, the students are observing a new aspect of science that was previously unknown to them.
Generally, we use scientific demonstrations in the early years and move into experiments as the students grow older.
Both of these types of scientific tests require the students to observe. And for this reason, scientific tests are a vital tool for teaching your student's observation skills.
Both nature study and scientific tests will build your students’ powers of observation. You can choose to use only nature study or rely solely on scientific demonstrations and experiments. Or you could choose to blend these two methods as you seek to instill in your students how to observe.
Either way, teaching the foundational skill of observation must be an integral part of a good homeschool science plan.
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