The "What is Science?" Box
In this activity, a group of 3-4 students are presented with a box that has writing on the five visible sides. Their task is to determine what is on the bottom of the box without touching the box in any way or moving from their seats. In solving this problem, students are using the same techniques that scientists use to learn about nature.
Methods of GeoscienceThis activity models the methods of science generally. It applies to the methods of geoscience as well and could be modified to highlight these connections.
Context for Use
Prior to class, I set up a box on the center of each table, each box oriented the same direction with respect to the room (this way, a student can't see another side of the box just by looking to the next table). I cover each box with a kitchen towel and students are not allowed to touch the box/towel as they arrive in class. I have students put their heads down on the table while I uncover the boxes and then they can open their eyes to make observations.
I typically use this activity with no introduction except to tell them to figure out what is written on the bottom of the box. They are not allowed to shift substantially in their chairs. I usually wait until someone asks, but they are allowed to use paper and write/sketch if they'd like.
I have done this activity with middle-school students and also with in-service teachers during teach workshops. I have followed up by having students design their own boxes and I also designed a box using geological symbols.