A Variety of Variables

Fifth graders are preparing Science Fair projects that will be displayed in February. Along with planning, organizing, and engaging in all elements of the scientific method, an important aspectsof this project involves testing a variable. Students must conduct controlled experiments and change only one variable at a time so that they can accurately understand and record the effects their variable has on their experiment. To practice working with variables, we are doing several experiments in the classroom. This week's experiment involves hanging a pendulum (a simple string with a paper clip tied to one end and a penny as the weight) and recording the number of cycles the pendulum swings in 15 seconds. Lab groups all began testing the release of position of the pendulum. All other variables remained constant. Groups then proceeded to test the number of cycles in 15 seconds by changing only the height from which the pendulum hung. Finally, they added more mass to the pendulum and recorded those cycles while keeping the height and release of position the same. This is an interactive way to test variables and think about how one factor affects the outcome of an experiment. Plus, who doesn't like to get on chairs and find the highest possible surface from which to test!

Jennifer Jordan