Purpose: Explore how scientists solve problems as you create a
test to learn more about your environment. Then, find out how you can
help real scientists with their research!
Set-Up: Scientists study nature and conduct research to better
understand how it works. They use what they learn to create solutions
that help people, animals, and the environment. To learn new things
and do research, scientists use a process called the scientific method.
Citizen science is when a scientist asks regular citizens to help
with their research. It’s a way for everyday people to help scientists
To get started, gather a few sheets of blank paper, a pencil, and
some markers or colored pencils. You’ll also need a set of “field
tools” to help you to take field notes about your environment. You
might want to include tools you have around the house, like a ruler,
magnifying glass, camera, and thermometer.
Part 1: Make observations about your environment.
Observation is watching and noticing something using all of your
senses, especially sight. Observations are a type of data. Data simply
means information. It can be notes, drawings, photos, recordings or
videos of what you see and hear.
Start by taking a minute to make some observations about your
environment (the world around you!).
If you can, go outside, but it’s alright if you’re indoors—there are
still plenty of things to observe! Walk around and explore your
surroundings. With your pencil and paper, collect data by writing or
drawing what you observe. Make sure to add lots of detail to your
data, like information about size, quantity, or color. If you have
questions about what you’re observing, write them down, too!
Part 2: Form scientific questions and hypotheses.
As scientists collect data, they ask scientific questions about
their observations. Once scientists have a scientific question, they
make an educated guess, or form a hypothesis, about what they think
the answer is. The hypothesis can be tested to see what parts (if any)
can be confirmed.
Once you have some observations, choose your 3 most interesting and
form 2 scientific questions for each. If you’re wondering if your
question is scientific, ask yourself: Is this testable? How could I
find an answer? What experiment or test could I conduct?
Then, choose one question that: 1) you’re interested in trying to
answer through more observation, and 2) you could collect data and
Finally, look back are your scientific question: what’s your
hypothesis? Use what you already know or can reason to answer your
Part 3: Test your hypothesis.
A hypothesis isn’t ever 100% right or wrong. If an experiment
confirms a hypothesis, it just means that the scientist has more data
about the subject, its environment, and how it interacts with the world.
So, once you have a hypothesis, design a way to test it and see what
you can confirm! Create your research plan by deciding: 1) what field
tools you’ll use and 2) what method or steps you’ll use to run the
test. Make sure that you’ll be able to run your experiment. If needed,
scale it down to something you can easily do with some simple observation!
Add “field tools” that help you learn more about you subject. For
example, you might have tools to help you show what your subject looks
like, how big it is, what it sounds like, or how many you see. Or, you
might need to identify parts of nature and want to include field guide
research as part of your plan.
Once you have a plan, test your hypothesis by observing your subject
once more. This time, focus on taking field notes only on your
subject. Use your set of “field tools” to add details about what your
subject looks like, how big it is, what it sounds like, or how many
you see. For example, you might use a ruler to measure the distance
between two objects or a camera instead of sketching.
Part 4: Analyze your results.
When scientists come back from the field, they review their notes to
make sure they’re detailed and think their data means. Thinking about
and understanding data is called data analysis. Scientists might
compare what they saw with other data, find a way to present it (like
a graph, chart, etc.), or look at their data and decide they need to
So, look at your data and analyze what you think it means: do your
results support your original hypothesis? Compare your results against
your original hypothesis to form a conclusion.
Depending on your test, you may not be able to form a conclusion
that answers your original question, and that’s okay! You’re still
using the scientific method to learn something about your world, just
When this happens to scientists, they might run their experiment
again, collect data over a longer period of time, or change their
entire research plan! It helps them to confirm that their results make
Optional Part 5: Participate in a citizen science project.
Now you know about the scientific method, but what can you do next?
Become a citizen scientist!
To help you get started, Girl Scouts of the USA has partnered
with SciStarter to offer Girl Scout and volunteers a special portal to
find and track citizen science projects.
SciStarter has almost 3,000 citizen science projects to choose
from—and the dashboards include several citizen science projects that
are well suited for Girl Scouts. There are projects that can be done
in any season!
You can participate in Globe Observer from NASA and collect data
about clouds, identify plants in your background with iNaturalist, or
play an online game called StallCatchers to help with Alzheimer’s
research. Whatever part of nature you’re interested in, there’s a
citizen project for you!
Check out the “How to Use SciStarter Guide” for more information on
citizen science projects and SciStarter.
And that’s it! You’ve completed part of the Senior Think Like a
Citizen Scientist Journey! If you had fun doing this, you might want
to participate in a citizen science project or Take Action with the
rest of the Think Like a Citizen Scientist Journey.