Close Observations

Good scientists are good observers. It is surprising how many details you can observe when you are paying attention to them, and all of those details are clues that may ultimately help you understand what is happening.

So what did you observe when you tried Scenario A? For your observations, some of you may have written, “The plunger went back up to where it started." Did it really? That’s not what happened when I tried it.

Here are some questions that you should consider when making your observations:

  1. Did the plunger go all the way back up to 35? How close did it get?
  2. What happened when you pushed down on the plunger? Was it hard to push down? Did it get harder or easier to push down, or stay the same, as the plunger got closer to 20?
  3. When you released the plunger, did it go all the way back up right away? How long did it take?
  4. Did the plunger move back up at a constant rate, or did it speed up or slow down?
  5. Did you hear anything when you released the plunger?
  6. Does the same thing happen every time when you try Scenario A over and over again?

As you can see, there are a lot of details to observe in this activity, and you never know which details might be important. It is always a good idea to repeat a scenario several times so that you can focus in on and capture as many details as possible. Make sure that you write everything down that you observe. Use drawings if that is helpful.