Sometimes it’s good to be wrong. Making a guess or an estimation and then finding out you were wrong creates an indelible learning experience. This is what the scientific method is all about. You identify a problem, make a guess as to how it might be solved, research, experiment, and find out the real answer.
I firmly believe that this is what a child’s science project experience should be like. I let my kids be wrong. Even if what they give as their hypotheses sounds so silly I am not sure if they are serious. I think, “She could not possibly believe that. She’s smarter than that, isn’t she?” But then it occurs to me that there’s no other way either of my kids might know any better. They are just little kids ,after all. So I write down the hypothesis as stated.
This year there were two large display boards with experimental accoutrements going to school from our house. The kindergartener proudly claimed that crystals come from a machine and the second grader was certain that trees cause wind by moving. Seriously. This is really what they thought.
Obviously I have fallen down on the job explaining clearly what a diamond mine is and we have not spent nearly enough time watching the weather channel. Honestly, although I know that trees do not move by themselves except in movies like “Lord of the Rings” and “Wizard of Oz,” I had no clear idea of what actually caused wind.
Through some research on the Internet and flipping through some general science books, both girls were able to learn the truth.
We turned in the projects to school where they went on display in the corridors of the main building. There were so many great projects posing great questions and beautiful displays. I have no problem with some adult help. I help my kids a great deal but try very hard to not impart my own opinions (thus, their interesting hypotheses). What I take exception to is the apparent solution before the project began. The hypotheses that match the conclusions PERFECTLY!
I am sorry, maybe those other kids are that smart, but I just don’t think so. I doubt that some of these kids knew the correct answer—and with exact detail—before they started. Come on! Let your kids learn for themselves how the Aztecs made an exact calendar. Let your little kids guess what grows a better rose. If they guess it’s Cheetos and beer, you might find out they’re right. And, if they already know the answer, then it’s not such a fun project and maybe you can think up something else.
The whole idea of giving kids experience with science is to supply them with that “aha moment” that all great inventors have had.
It’s fun to watch kids get it. And they really are not that embarrassed when they are wrong with their initial guesses–at least not in the safe learning environment of their own homes. That learning experience pays off. Both of my kids’ projects got chosen to go to the regional science fair. Woohoo!