Scientific Methods and Problem Solving

Course Title: 
Course Description: 

Students begin the course with lab experiments, group activities and lectures illustrating the importance of the scientific method for all scientific inquiry and human progress. From there the course blends lecture, hands-on lab experiments and the process approach to develop skills in observation and analysis, and to discover, demonstrate, illustrate, or test scientific principles or concepts. It is organized around the themes, processes and importance of the scientific method and process. The student is an apprentice scientist in this course. My goal is to guide them to understand what tools are necessary to be a successful scientist and help them develop the techniques need to become skilled at using these tools. SMPS is a laboratory based course that is designed to challenge students by developing the tools, attitude and thinking to solve problems in a scientific way. The course prepares students by focusing on the refining of scientific skills such as measurement; graphing, analyzing data, expressions, scientific writing, and developing a scientific thought process.
This course is designed to provide some students with an authentic science research experience. This will be accomplished by accessing scientific data bases, using on-line bibliographic search techniques, developing hypotheses, performing experiments, writing research papers and communicating findings.
Students spend approximately 75% - 80% of class time engaged in the research process. One to three initial hands-on experiences are utilized to assess and build scientific processes skills. Specific research skills such as conducting a literature search, writing a proposal, and analyzing data will be taught then utilized by students in the completion of their individual research projects.
What are the course objectives?
At the conclusion of this course, you should be able to…
• Collect, record, and interpret data by using appropriate scientific equipment.
• Apply the scientific method as a scientific problem solving tool.
• Research and evaluate the effects of a particular scientific breakthrough.
• Report, display, and defend the results of a scientific investigation.
• Use the technological design process to solve the design problem (propose, build, test, and modify.)
• Establish and practice safety rules during laboratory experiments.
• Assess the validity of a scientific claim.
• Demonstrate the difference between scientific inquiry as a process and technological design as an application.
Course Outcomes:
1. Utilize technology and inquiry to increase understanding of the natural world
2. Access and evaluate scientific literature for relevance to a topic
3. Design and conduct independent scientific research involving the collection and analysis of data.
4. Analyze and communicate the findings of scientific research
Introductory Labs – The first three labs will be introduction to lab safety, using the scientific method, proper lab techniques, inquiry skills, and research ethics.
Labs will rotate days with class time. Some weeks we will have three labs and other weeks there will only be two labs. This class will be using the old Ag building that provides lots of space and equipment to work continuously on projects without having to break down and set up each class. Since this class will not have to share lab space with any other class, time will be saved in set up and clean up of each lab day. Labs will be 50 minutes long. Students will report directly to the lab where roll be taken in the lab so students can began to work as soon as they arrive to class.
Certain labs will be used for individual work and others may require a partner and others may require that the entire class work together on a large project. Students may be working on their individual project and at the same time be working on group projects since many labs may involve plants or other subjects that require time for observations. The labs should be based on new ideas developed by the student or ideas found from reading research. This being so would mean that there are no step by step directions for the lab that can be given the student. The lab student will receive four examples of lab journals used by leaders in the field of research and two classroom periods will be used to make the students understand the value and importance in good record keeping. The student can use these examples to develop their own style of record keeping. Lab journals will be checked at the end of labs as a ticket out. The purpose of the labs is to make the student explore ways to solve a problem and not cook book a solution.
Selection of research projects will be based on the topics of interest and need of students. Teacher will assign a problem to student only if the student can not provide their own problem. It is important for the student to learn to recognize, identify and be able to write a description of the problem as part of the class. It is important that problems are not cook book solutions found in books or internet. See examples of problems (listed below) worked on this year. The complexity of the problem is not as important as is the approach to a solution. It is the process of thinking out a problem, developing experiments to search for answer, and to learn to write up the results in proper order. All labs require students to determine their own approach to solving the problem. The goal is to solve real life problems using the scientific method.
The day in class will be spent discussing issues found from reading current magazines and papers and from studying people and invention from the past and independent ideas from students. Various topics and problems will be discussed as a class during class time. Student will discuss the status of their problem, its impact on our city, state, country or environment and then discus how to develop a solution using the scientific method. Day to day lab work will be entered into a lab journal.

Sample Lab
Lab –Simple Engines

Six class periods will be spend on an introduction to the six simple machines.
Objective of lab: Using drawings and models of actual simple machines TLW demonstrate knowledge of the six simple machines and how to incorporate them to perform a task.
1. Levers
2. Pulleys
3. Wheel and Axle
4. Inclined Planes and Wedges
5. Screws
6. Gears
The lab will take the six machines and use them to make a single Rube Goldberg apparatus that incorporates all six type machine. This would be an ongoing project that could take one, two or three six week periods. A fully operating apparatus has to demonstrate the six machines as part of the final assessment of this project. Planning of the design should take into consideration available materials in the lab or home. All planning, sketches, calculations and conclusion must be entered into the lab journal.

Sample problems worked on this year in the Lab
1. Personal research projects selected by students
2. Create object that will travel across room and return on a wire
3. Make flying apparatus to take cup of water 40 down and 50 feet out
4. Parasites in wild burros
5. Nivicular disease in horses
6. Where will Yuma be in 2050?
7. The invention process
8. The creative process
9. The problem of writing Problems
10. Creating Natural science museum
11. Parachute design
12. Tearing apart old machines
13. Science tools
14. Research methods
15. Life study of Arizona lizards
16. Desalting still
17. Mini paper processing machine
18. Extract water from air, Nimadi beetle
19. Bacteria to bio fuel
20. Study of prism light
21. Space elevator
22. Can we find use for sand
23. Sand use
24. Desert plants
25. Method preserving ligaments and tendon in lab
26. How does a blimp work
27. Using floating observation platforms
28. Graffiti prevention materials
29. DIY submarine
30. Proper preparation of the science notes
31. Solar water production
32. Dean of inventor
33. The Tamarisk problem
34. Superhydrophobicity
35. Plasma ball
36. The science of a better bike
37. Make scale models
38. Can we make the wind work for Yuma?
39. Desert Life
40. Robotics

EXPECTED BEHAVIOR: The conduct of this class is defined in its rules. These rules are basic to the success of your educational experience in this class and in the EEC.
1) Attend Class: There is a direct correlation to number of absences and success in any class –
those who attend will do better than those who do not. If you know that you will be absent, submit an “Extended Absence Form” to me at least three days in advance.
2) Be On Time And Prepared For Class: Be in your assigned seat before the
tardy bell rings (the school tardy policy will be enforced). Have necessary materials on hand and be attentive and ready to participate. All assigned work must be turned in on time as NO late work will be accepted for full credit.
5) I will enforce all school rules regarding dress code, harassment (sexual and otherwise), profanity, fighting, cheating, et. al. While not intended to stifle creativity and expression, these guidelines have been adopted in order to provide a safe and comfortable learning environment for you and all others fortunate enough to be educated at this school. Know our rules regarding student discipline and conduct!
6) Electronic Devises (ie. Cell Phones, Walkmans, etc.) Due to their distractive
Qualities in the classroom and their increasing use as cheating tools, ALL
electronic devises will be turned off and placed out of view and touch when in the classroom. All others will be confiscated and given to the school administration where they will need to be picked up by you or your parents at a later time. If seen in use, the assumption will be that cheating is or has occurred. You may not use these in class!!!
7) RESPECT EVERYONE ELSES RIGHT TO LEARN: Support others in class to successfully
accomplish their greatest level of achievement.
What is required of me?
Simply put, students who enroll in SMPS must be well focused and hard working. The course is highly technical and detailed oriented. As such, students need ample opportunity to practice the skills and techniques introduced during the course; these opportunities appear in the form of in-class practice, lab activities, and homework. The importance of completing these assignments cannot be overstated.
What advice do you have for me to be successful in this course?
• Since homework/labs make up half of your grade, success in this course begins with you doing your homework and labs on time.
• When you have questions, you’ll need to ask. I want you to be successful as much as you want to succeed…but the responsibility is on YOU to ask when you have questions.
Formal homework is not always assigned but you always have homework! Each day new concepts are introduced and it is important that you study the information each night in order to understand it better and to avoid “cramming” prior to an exam. If you want to receive full credit on anything you have done, all of your work must be turned in on time - ALL LATE WORK WILL RECEIVE NO MORE THAN 50% CREDIT! If in the case of an excused absence, you will be given the same number of days equal to your excused absence to complete and turn in your work. It will be your responsibility, not mine, to make sure your work is picked up, completed, and turned in (even after an excused absence). Call a classmate to get any missed assignments when you are absent and/or follow the procedure I demonstrated regarding where to get missed homework and assignments - Do not fall behind and stay organized!!!
What do I do if I'm absent?
It is your responsibility find out what you missed by checking your course schedule for assignments, talking to class members, coming in to see me. You will be given one day to make up work for each day absent.
What do I need to bring each day for this class?
1. Notebook - Paramount in importance is that you be organized. When you are
organized, it will take you far less time to find and store items necessary for your success - not only in this class, but also in others and with life in general. For this reason, a step in the right direction is that you will be required to keep an organized Notebook (exclusive to this class).
2. Pencils
4. Loose leaf paper
5. Three dividers (notes, handouts/quizzes, manual)
6. Ruler
7. A floppy disk and a memory stick (254MB) to save computer work done in class

• SCHS-S1C1-PO 1. Evaluate scientific information for relevance to a given problem.
• SCHS-S1C1-PO 2. Develop questions from observations that transition into testable hypotheses.
• SCHS-S1C1-PO 3. Formulate a testable hypothesis.
• SCHS-S1C1-PO 4. Predict the outcome of an investigation based on prior evidence, probability, and/or modeling (not guessing or inferring).
• SCHS-S1C2-PO 2. Identify the resources needed to conduct an investigation.
• SCHS-S1C2-PO 3. Design an appropriate protocol (written plan of action) for testing a hypothesis:
- Identify dependent and independent variables in a controlled investigation.
-Determine an appropriate method for data collection (e.g., using balances, thermometers, microscopes, spectrophotometer, using qualitative changes).
- Determine an appropriate method for recording data (e.g., notes, sketches, photographs, videos, journals (logs), charts, computers/calculators).
• SCHS-S1C2-PO 4. Conduct a scientific investigation that is based on a research design.
• SCHS-S1C2-PO 5. Record observations, notes, sketches, questions, and ideas using tools such as journals, charts, graphs, and computers.
• SCHS-S1C3-PO 2. Evaluate whether investigational data support or do not support the proposed hypothesis.
• SCHS-S1C3-PO 3. Critique reports of scientific studies (e.g., published papers, student reports).
• SCHS-S1C3-PO 4. Evaluate the design of an investigation to identify possible sources of procedural error, • SCHS-S1C3-PO6. Use descriptive statistics to analyze data,
• SCHS-S1C3-PO 7. Propose further investigations based on the findings of a conducted investigation.
• SCHS-S1C4-PO 1. For a specific investigation, choose an appropriate method for communicating the results.
• SCHS-S1C4-PO 2. Produce graphs that communicate data.
• SCHS-S1C4-PO 3. Communicate results clearly and logically.
• SCHS-S1C4-PO 4. Support conclusions with logical scientific arguments.
• SCHS-S2C1-PO1. Describe how human curiosity and needs have influenced science, impacting the quality of life worldwide.
• SCHS-S2C1-PO4. Analyze how specific cultural and/or societal issues promote or hinder scientific advancements.
• SCHS-S2C2-PO1. Specify the requirements of a valid, scientific explanation (theory)
• SCHS-S2C2-PO2. Explain the process by which accepted ideas are challenged or extended by scientific innovation.
• SCHS-S2C2-PO3. Distinguish between pure and applied science.
• SCHS-S2C2-PO4. Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of theories.
• SCHS-S3C2-PO2. Recognize the importance of basing arguments on a thorough understanding of the core concepts and principles of science and technology.
• SCHS-S5C3-PO 2. Describe various ways in which energy is transferred from one system to another (e.g., mechanical contact, thermal conduction, electromagnetic radiation.)
• SCHS-S5C4-PO 1. Apply the law of conservation of matter to changes in a system.
• SCHS-S5C2-PO 1. Determine the rate of change of a quantity (e.g., rate of erosion, rate of reaction, rate of growth, velocity).
• SCHS-S5C3-PO 3. Recognize that energy is conserved in a closed system.
• SCHS-S1C3-PO 5. Design models (conceptual or physical) of the following to represent “real world” scenarios: phase change.
• SC08-S1C2-PO 4. Perform measurements using appropriate scientific tools (e.g., balances, microscopes, probes, micrometers).
• SCHS-S1C2-P01 Demonstrate safe and ethical procedures (e.g., use and care of technology, materials, organisms) and behavior in all science inquiry.
• SCHS-S3C2-PO2. Recognize the importance of basing arguments on a thorough understanding of the core concepts and principles of science and technology.

School Information: 
3100 S Ave A
Zip code: 
Monday, July 9, 2012

The committee would like a more detailed example of a typical lab. Additionally, what discipline does this course fall under: physics, chemistry, geology, biology, etc...Thank you.