Mystery Socks – Using Indirect Evidence

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Some examples of the small toys I used in this activity

Purpose:

Students will use indirect evidence to determine what is inside each mystery sock.

Materials: per class

  • 10 new long black socks
  • 20 rubber bands
  • 10 clothes pins numbered 1-10
  • small toys or other objects to place inside each sock
  • (online) stopwatch
  • student handout (Mystery Socks-Using Indirect Evidence)

Preparation:

  • Place the desired quantity of each item into each sock.
  • Halfway down the sock, secure/close the sock with a rubber band.
  • Fold the top half of the sock down so that it completely covers up the bottom half of the sock.
  • Add the 2nd rubber band to the opening of the sock to secure it.
    • this will prevent items from falling out, students peeking into the sock, and provide an additional layer of material to conceal what is inside
  • Attach a numbered clothes pin to the sock.
  • Each group or pair of students will make observations on one sock at a time, then pass the sock to the next group when the timer goes off after 1 minute.
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Mystery Sock with item secured inside

Procedures:

  1. Discuss and share strategies students may use to determine what is inside a wrapped present before they open it. Students are using clues, or observations, and their problem solving skills to guess what is inside. They will know if their guess is correct once they open the gift. But what if we couldn’t open the gift, ever? How would we know what is inside? How would we know if we were right or not?
  2. Introduce the activity to the students. They will have one minute to determine what is inside each sock. They can’t open the sock but they can use their hands to feel what is inside the sock.
  3. Arrange students into pairs or groups.
  4. Give each pair/group a mystery sock and ask them not to handle the sock until the timer starts.
  5. Once the timer starts, students will make as many observations as they can and guess what is inside each sock.
  6. Once the timer goes off, they will pass it to the next pair/group and the timer will start again.
  7. Continue until students have made observations on all 10 socks.
  8. Collect all 10 socks.
  9. Share observations and guesses.
  10. Open one sock at a time and reveal what is inside, and discuss.

Closure:

For thousands of years, we have been trying to figure out what an atom looks like, and what is inside the atom. We can’t ‘unwrap’ the atom and peak inside. But based on experiments and observations, we have our current atomic model.

Students will watch the BrainPOP movie and fill in notes about the Atomic Model

 

 

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Mystery Footprints – Observation vs. Inference

footprints-mystery-activity
Image Source: Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science (1998)

Materials:

  • Updated for 2015 – Mystery Footprints – Observation vs. Inference (Google Slides Public link)
    • You can download this Google Slide Presentation in any format
      • Click “File” then “Download as” and choose ppt, etc
  • Handout for Mystery Footprint Activity (pdf)
  • projector

Background

This is one of my favorite activities to practice making observations and inferences, it really helps the students differentiate between the two. As I mentioned in my ‘Boy in the Water‘ post, students tend to clump their observations and inferences together, they think they are the same thing.

For example, after viewing the first panel of the image, they will say that they ‘see two animals running towards each other.’ and my response is, “I don’t see two animals running towards each other, but I do see two sets of tracks”. After a few tries, they refine their answers and start to see the ‘facts’ of the image. Then we talk about the ‘story’ behind the facts.

When doing this activity, before I show them the first panel for the image, I stress how important it is not to share, or shout out, their thoughts or answers as soon as they see the image. Why is that important? Why can’t we share our answers right away? I stress to them that when they share their answers, they are taking away opportunities for their peers to think about what they are seeing.

For example, if someone asked you to name a vegetable, and I shouted out BROCCOLI, my answer would creep into everyone’s thoughts and BROCCOLI would push away any ideas about vegetables that didn’t have a chance to develop. Instead of sweet potatoes, or even yucca, you are now thinking about broccoli. It is important to let everyone have a chance to see the image, think about it, and to process and form their ideas. Their ideas may end up being the same as yours, but they may also think of something totally different. Once everyone has had a chance to process their thoughts, we can share our ideas and have a discussion where everyone can contribute and develop their thoughts further.

This activity was originally published in Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science (1998) and the book is available as a free download. You can find more details on pages 87-89 for this lesson.