This post was an entry for Britmums’ #KidsGrowWild Challenge
It is all too easy to allow older children just to do their own thing, and distance themselves from the rest of the family – it saves arguments for one, and makes life a lot more peaceful: This is especially true of a teen with Aspergers Syndrome. But I feel that every now and then, it is important that they are included, and that they learn to be a bit more social, and make sure they keep some self-esteem (in that they feel that people do want them to be included). With that in mind, and the fact that all of his GCSEs are over now, I enlisted him to help with the KidsGrowWild challenge – besides he’s very brainy and I thought I could do with his input.
I explained to my teen that we had this lovely kit sent over and that we had to do something with it – and well, if we could think of something more unusual than just planting the flowers this would be even better. So he came up with the idea of an experiment. I thought this was a great idea because it’s something my second son will be starting to think about it, and if we kept it simple enough, something the learning through play would also benefit my 5 year old (and the youngest also joined in with the practical side).
First of all I made up some sheets to help us all discuss what we needed to do – including explaining any jargon. The first part of our experimental design was to think about what the problem was. This was really interesting as we did actually go back and change this as it was originally about flowers, but my second son said he had done something similar at school and that it would be “germination” (he told me this is when the seed starts to grow radicle, the seeds first root) we would be doing as we had packs of seeds, and that actually although flowers like light, to germinate it is better in the dark. This lead to deep discussion about whether it is better in the dark or just absence of light, or just that they didn’t need light!
We talked about the independent variables we were going to test – explaining that they were something that would change in the experiment. We decided that they would be whether it was light or dark; whether they were in soil or on tissue paper; and whether they had water or no water.
That the dependent variable (something that responds to the independent variable) was the measurable amount, and in our case the time it took the seeds to germinate.
The Constant Variables – something that stays the same throughout the experiment (something we can control) we decided on the same seeds – in case different seed types preferred different conditions; sowed at the same time; and the same tubs. We did discuss whether to use different tubs for the dark and light conditions but felt that this may confound the results.
Controlled Variable – where the independent variables are left unchanged to provide a comparison. Trying to not get too complicated but we discussed things that could affect our results, such as whether the seed was a bad seed or not, so we decided that by using 2 seeds for each independent variable would eliminate this error bias.
There was discussion about the difference between Confounding variables and Extraneous Variables – but it seemed this was a little too complicated. What we did decide is that there were things beyond our control which may affect our results – such as the different temperatures in the different locations.
We then moved on to the Hypothesis – what we thought the answer to the problem was. By this point I thought they’d had a bit of an information overload, so just got them to say which of the 3 independent variables they thought would be the ones which would grow quickest (as opposed to formulation a question with that information in). They came to the agreement that they thought that the dark, tissue paper condition, with water would grow the fastest. Neither did I talk to them about the fact that you can’t prove anything, only disprove that something didn’t happen this time and what the probability of repeating that is, and that is why we usually test the Null hypothesis (as I say my 5 year old was involved too!).
Then we thought about the Procedure – asking:
What steps will we take to find the answer? What materials/apparatus will we use? How will we measure the result?
We decided that the 4 conditions – light, dark, tissue, and soil, would each have 4 pots – 2 for with water, and 2 for without. We would use them same pots, the same seeds (sunflower as supplied, but not mixed).
That the dark ones would go in the cupboard and the light ones on the window sill.
That the ones to be watered would happen daily, at the same time, and that they would all be checked daily for growth.
The children all played a part in the experiment – and even I learnt something from my children – which in turn helps boost their self-esteem and confidence.
If you have older children, or feel like being a bit more adventurous, you could get them to write-up the experiment, and draw what the apparatus looks like.
Now we just have to wait to see what the results are.
I received a free gardening starter kit, all opinions, and words are my own.