Quick! What’s the first step in the good old scientific method?
Time’s up. If you guessed, ‘ask a question‘ or ‘form a hypothesis‘ I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but you are wrong.
The first step is observation. Grass is green. What is the mechanism by which blades of grass reflect light of ~495-570nm? (This question is often asked by young humans as, “Why is grass green?” to which their adult humans glibly answer, “Because it is,” or “Because God made it that way.” Both answers are wholly satisfying if you are three years old. If you are seven, not so much.)
The first two chapters of Science in Your Own Back Yard,
Chapter 1: Exploring the Yard on Your Stomach
Chapter 2: Exploring the World on Your Back,
feature observations and suggest questions. Chapter 1 especially emphasizes the senses– how else do we observe the world but through our senses?
This is a little tricky, though. What do you see? hear? feel? smell? are pretty straight forward questions. Taste can be not just problematic but down-right dangerous in a back yard. Though some flower pedals and leaves are edible, “it’s not a good idea to go around tasting strange plants, leaves, flowers or insects.”*
Ants are supposed to have a sour taste, but you certainly wouldn’t want to taste one.
The thought of a mouthful of fire ants* The author reminds the reader that oleander is poisonous, as are toadstools, etc., but that they are not “marked with a skull and cross-bones” as the poisonous stuff in the kitchen cupboard or medicine cabinet are. “By the time you found out something you tasted was poisonous, it would be too late and you’d be in serious trouble.”
So what’s a kid doing science in his own back yard to do?
… remember, you have a good sense of taste but you also have good sense in general, and so you will do your tasting on things that you know are good to eat.
That’s it. That’s the warning about tasting strange things in your yard. But more importantly, that’s the assumption. Kids have good sense. Don’t taste strange s*^# in your yard.
Here’s an observation. Some of us– like mega-millions of us– who grew up back in the
crappy olden days when we really did explore not just our back yards but little patches of nearby woods and streams and what have you are still alive to tell about it!!!! And what’s even more interesting is that we passed these exploratory genes onto a next generation.
That the term “free-range” is applied to parents, children and chickens is a sad sad commentary on life in 2015, isn’t it?
Cicada comment below.
*I hasten to add– because it is cicada season– that some folks do like cicadas sautéed with a bit of garlic.