Scientific method

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Because the OLPC comes from a lineage of constructionist education projects, we want to place some emphasis on teaching of the scientific method. Too often, our current science education is based upon memorization of scientific facts or on the history of science. We want the OLPC to actively engage children in the doing of science. Since the scientific method is the basis of all scientific research, any science teaching materials for the OLPC need to help the children learn and apply the scientific method.

The Four Steps

  1. Observation and description of a phenomenon or group of phenomena.
  1. Formulation of an hypothesis to explain the phenomena. In physics, the hypothesis often takes the form of a causal mechanism or a mathematical relation.
  1. Use of the hypothesis to predict the existence of other phenomena, or to predict quantitatively the results of new observations.
  1. Performance of experimental tests of the predictions by several independent experimenters and properly performed experiments.


Wiki software such as Wikidpad is an ideal tool for collecting and organizing observations. Its only lack is dealing with structured data such as measurements. One could possibly fix this by building a simple spreadsheet in Javascript to integrate with Wikidpad. Ideally, the spreadsheet would record the data in Wikidpad's SQLite database in a way that it can easily be retrieved by other applications.


This will probably be handled mostly by e-book content. It's mostly a matter of asking kids, What do you think explains these observations?. In a case where there are lots of measurements, one could deal with both Hypothesis and Prediction in a charting application but that is not always appropriate.


This is an area that can be nicely supported by software because it can involve statistics, trend lines, neural networks, and other mathematical and graphical things.


The OLPC can run simulation software that can be used directly to do experiments, for instance physical simulation software. The Squeak team and Alan Kay have done a lot of work on this type of thing.

Background Information

Here you can list pointers to other pages or sites that are relevant to the teaching of science by doing.