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written by Mary Hebrank
This curriculum unit, developed at Duke University, features two lessons in which students design experiments to test their own hypotheses, but offers a fresh approach to the textbook "scientific method". In the first lesson, students gather and record simple data about drops of different fluids -- but that's not the primary point of the activity. Instead, students must analyze their own findings and generate plausible explanations based upon the evidence.

In the second lesson, students develop testable hypotheses about the amount of mass lost in gum after chewing. They test both sugared and sugar-free gums.  Again, the main point is not data collection. This experiment promotes understanding of the importance of a control in a scientific experimentation.

Editor's Note: This curricular unit is offered in segments. The entire unit takes about two weeks, but may be parceled into smaller modules requiring 2-3 days for completion.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education Foundations
- Research Design & Methodology
Education Practices
- Active Learning
= Inquiry Learning
- Middle School
- High School
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Curriculum
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
= Unit of Instruction
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- New teachers
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© 2007 Duke University, Pratt School of Engineering, 2007
controlled variables, experiment, experimental controls, experimental research, hypothesis, research design, research methods, scientific process
Record Creator:
Metadata instance created October 18, 2010 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
August 4, 2016 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
February 6, 2007

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

1. The Nature of Science

1B. Scientific Inquiry
  • 3-5: 1B/E4. Scientists do not pay much attention to claims about how something they know about works unless the claims are backed up with evidence that can be confirmed, along with a logical argument.
1C. The Scientific Enterprise
  • 3-5: 1C/E2. Clear communication is an essential part of doing science. It enables scientists to inform others about their work, expose their ideas to criticism by other scientists, and stay informed about scientific discoveries around the world.

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (1993 Version)


B. Scientific Inquiry
  • 1B (3-5) #3.  Scientists' explanations about what happens in the world come partly from what they observe, partly from what they think. Sometimes scientists have different explanations for the same set of observations. That usually leads to their making more observations to resolve the differences.
  • 1B (6-8) #2.  If more than one variable changes at the same time in an experiment, the outcome of the experiment may not be clearly attributable to any one of the variables. It may not always be possible to prevent outside variables from influencing the outcome of an investigation (or even to identify all of the variables), but collaboration among investigators can often lead to research designs that are able to deal with such situations.
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AIP Format
M. Hebrank, (2007), WWW Document, (https://www.teachengineering.org/curricularunits/view/duk_bubble_mary_unit#contents).
M. Hebrank, Teach Engineering: Students as Scientists, (2007), <https://www.teachengineering.org/curricularunits/view/duk_bubble_mary_unit#contents>.
APA Format
Hebrank, M. (2007, February 6). Teach Engineering: Students as Scientists. Retrieved January 24, 2017, from https://www.teachengineering.org/curricularunits/view/duk_bubble_mary_unit#contents
Chicago Format
Hebrank, Mary. Teach Engineering: Students as Scientists. February 6, 2007. https://www.teachengineering.org/curricularunits/view/duk_bubble_mary_unit#contents (accessed 24 January 2017).
MLA Format
Hebrank, Mary. Teach Engineering: Students as Scientists. 2007. 6 Feb. 2007. 24 Jan. 2017 <https://www.teachengineering.org/curricularunits/view/duk_bubble_mary_unit#contents>.
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@misc{ Author = "Mary Hebrank", Title = {Teach Engineering: Students as Scientists}, Volume = {2017}, Number = {24 January 2017}, Month = {February 6, 2007}, Year = {2007} }
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%A Mary Hebrank
%T Teach Engineering: Students as Scientists
%D February 6, 2007
%U https://www.teachengineering.org/curricularunits/view/duk_bubble_mary_unit#contents
%O text/html

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%0 Electronic Source
%A Hebrank, Mary
%D February 6, 2007
%T Teach Engineering: Students as Scientists
%V 2017
%N 24 January 2017
%8 February 6, 2007
%9 text/html
%U https://www.teachengineering.org/curricularunits/view/duk_bubble_mary_unit#contents

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