What Do Scientists Do?

Grades 4—8

Written by Cary I. Sneider

One of the all-time most popular GEMS guides, Oobleck makes a joyful scientist out of every child. Oobleck is a green, oozy substance (from "outer space," in this fictional account) that both begs and eludes description as it initiates students in the nature of inquiry and definition and sparks vigorous debate about its properties.

Students begin by forming small laboratory teams to examine, experiment with, and hypothesize about Oobleck (in truth, a mixture of cornstarch, water, and food coloring), learning and using the scientific vocabulary needed to describe material properties. In the second activity, the class holds a scientific convention to discuss experimental findings. Students then turn engineers, and design a spacecraft that can successfully land on an ocean of Oobleck. In the final session, the methods the students used to analyze Oobleck are compared to those of professional scientists, such as those working on the Mars Viking mission. A large poster illustrating the mission is included.

Oobleck is not only a great hands-on experience for all ages, it provides students authentic insight into the real work of scientists.

Time: Four or more 20- to 45-minute sessions.

See the Oobleck: What Do Scientists Do? online orientation video.

NSTA Recommends   Oobleck: What Do Scientists Do?
"For years, I have been using Oobleck: What Do Scientists Do? to introduce my science students to scientific processes at the beginning of the school year. For the rest of the year, they are hooked on science! …The guide is well written and makes teaching this unit easy… I found the section on assessment strategies to be helpful, especially because a list of student outcomes is given… This is a messy, exciting way to teach students how real scientists go about their scientific explorations. I highly recommend this GEMS guide to all teachers of students in grades 4—8."
–National Science Teachers Association Recommends

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4 or more Sessions,
40 pages


Lawrence Hall of Science    © 2004 UC Regents. All rights reserved.    Contact GEMS    Updated June 20, 2020