Making Predictions in Middle School Science
Shelley Levin, Middle School Science

One of the hallmarks of a middle school science class at Forest Ridge is that students will be doing science every day. This statement may conjure up visions of lab coats, test tubes and safety goggles, but actively “doing science” happens in many different ways. Based on the Next Generation Science Standards, our Middle School Science Department focuses on skill development in three primary categories: scientific inquiry, scientific communication and engineering.

The skill of making predictions is an important part of scientific inquiry. A strong scientific prediction is testable, logical and incorporates accurate scientific knowledge and observations. One of the most exciting things about predictions is that we often learn more when they turn out to be incorrect!

In fifth-grade science, we’ve been practicing making predictions in our unit on ornithology, the study of birds. Every year the fifth graders choose and conduct an investigation about birds on campus that has never been done before. Some past investigation questions have been: Do songbirds prefer a feeder hanging from a tree or a pole? and What location on campus do birds prefer? To practice making testable, logical and supported predictions, the fifth graders wrote predictions for all past investigation questions, then analyzed the data collected by these previous investigators to conclude if their predictions were supported or not. Finally, we chose our question for this year – Do FR hummingbirds prefer a loud and crowded or quiet and botanical place to eat? – and set up hummingbird feeders outside the Commons (a loud and crowded place) and the entrance to Raven’s Route (a quiet and botanical place). Students made predictions based on their observations of hummingbirds so far on campus. Stay tuned for the results!

In sixth-grade science, we have been using eggs to model how water moves in and out of cells through the process of osmosis, the movement of water across a membrane in order to reach equilibrium. Once an egg’s shell has been dissolved away using vinegar, it’s left surrounded only by its membrane—just like a cell! Sixth graders have been making and testing predictions about how water will move when this egg is left in vinegar, corn syrup, and colored water. Deepening understanding about osmosis helps students make more and more well-supported predictions over the course of the lab. Now, we can apply what we’ve learned to individual cells.

So next time you consider actively “doing science,” think – what prediction am I testing? What knowledge and observations am I using to support it? What will I learn from testing this prediction? A good prediction always leads to more questions!