User:Vilimaka/Temp/Vili The cube.doc

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The cube


  • To demonstrate how scientific knowledge is constructed.
  • To demonstrate the importance of evidence and careful observation in science.

What you need

You need a cardboard cube:

  • The cube must have a number (from 1 to 6) on each of the six sides.
  • A template of the cube is included in Appendix 1B. Use the template to make the cube before you begin the activity.
  • The number on one side of the cube (in this activity, number 2) has to be deliberately hidden from the pupils by placing it face downwards on the table that the cube is sitting on.

Please note

  • The following instructions assume you are doing this activity with your pupils at school. However, you can also do it on your own or with a group of colleagues.
  • To do this activity with your pupils in the classroom, put them in small discussion groups of four to five pupils. By arranging the desks so that the pupils are facing each other, you also encourage them to talk to each other and share ideas.
  • Make it clear to your pupils, right at the beginning of the activity, that they must not try to look at the hidden number until they have completed the activity.

What to do

  1. Draw the table below on the board.

Observations Questions arising from observation Answers to questions
  1. Tell your pupils , ‘We are about to do a very interesting science activity. You must pay attention to what I am going to ask you to do.’
  2. Place the cube on a table, with the side with the hidden number 2 facing down.
  3. Tell the pupils, ‘Study the cube carefully and write down your observation in your books. You can come close to the cube, touch and feel it, and lift it up but you must not look at the bottom.’ Give them about 3–5 minutes to list their observations. This would be an excellent time to emphasise the meaning of the following terms:

a.observe – to use the senses (not just sight!) to gather information about a phenomenon;

b.observation – a description of what is observed.

Please note that many students (even at high school and university levels) have difficulty writing observations correctly. A common mistake is to try to add an explanation (or a reason) for what was observed. Keep in mind that an observation is a description (not an explanation) – and emphasise this point while your pupils are observing and writing down their observations.

  1. Ask the class for some of their observations and record them in the left-hand column of the table on the board. Examples of observations your pupils may come up with are: ‘The cube has numbers on its sides’ and ‘The cube is made of paper’.
  2. Tell the pupils, ‘Based on these observations on the board, think of a list of questions about the cube that you would like an answer to.’ You can do this as a brainstorming activity. List the pupils’ questions in the middle column of the table on the board.

Examples of questions your pupils may come up with are: ‘Is the cube solid or hollow?’ and ‘Is the cube heavy?’

Emphasise that in science, new knowledge is constructed after scientists come up with questions, based on careful observation, that they want to investigate and find answers to. So you and your pupils are scientists!

  1. Check that you have the question ‘What is the number at the bottom?’ in your list on the board. If it is not there, add it to the list, telling the class, ‘This is an important question and it must be included’.
  2. Tell the pupils, ‘Copy the table into your books. Then use the observations in the first column to answer each of the questions in the middle column. List your answers in the right-hand column.’
  3. It is possible that your class may come up with many answers to a single question. Emphasise that the best scientific answer is the one that has observations to support it.

For example, possible answers to ‘Is the cube solid or hollow?’ are shown below.

  1. Encourage the pupils to present their answers to each question in the format below. Tell them, ‘You must cross out the answers that are not supported by observation because scientific answers are supported by evidence.’

Observations Questions arising from observation Answers to questions
The cube is very light.

Is the cube solid or hollow?

The cube is hollow because it is soft when I touched it.
  1. Draw the pupil’s attention to the question, ‘What is the number at the bottom?’ and ask the pupils to use the observation list to answer it. Give them 5–10 minutes to do this.

Your pupils may find that they do not have enough observations on their list to work out a scientific answer to this question. If so:

–ask them to observe the cube again;

–emphasise the importance of careful and complete observation in science: ‘Because the construction of scientific knowledge is based on observation, it is very important that you observe carefully and completely.’

Examples of observations your pupils may come up with are: ‘It is a sequence of numbers beginning at 1 and going up to 6 but with 2 missing from it’ or ‘Numbers on opposite sides add up to 7’.

Using these observations, they should come up with answers like the following.

Emphasise that in science, an answer becomes stronger (that is, less likely to be proved wrong) when a lot of evidence supports it. For example, two observations in the above example support the idea that 2 is the number on the bottom.

  1. Ask the pupils, ‘What are the important characteristics of science that you learned from this activity?’ Give them 3–5 minutes to discuss their ideas and write their answers in their books.
  2. In the space below, write a reflective paragraph (of no more than 100 words) on your experiences with your pupils in regard to learning about science in this activity.