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Classroom Happenings: Bubbling Over With Discovery

The Steward School
A unique way to learn the scientific method
When Middle School Earth and Space Science Teacher Sarah Bain pondered what experiment her eighth graders should take on as they explored the scientific method (hypothesis, experiment, observation, and measurement), a novel idea popped into her head. Mrs. Bain decided that bubbles were the perfect medium for her young scientists.

Students tested three soap types (independent variables) to determine which produced the biggest bubble diameter. After mixing the dish soaps with water and pouring them onto their lab tables, some students used straws to blow bubbles. Before the bubbles popped, their lab partners measured the diameter of the bubbles in centimeters. 

One of the key takeaways from the experiment, said Mrs. Bain, “is the understanding that there can only be one independent variable and one dependent variable (the size of the bubbles) in any experiment. We chatted about whether the students could change the person blowing up the bubbles (since there were three different soaps), which they couldn’t, as that would have introduced a second independent — or changing — variable.” 

Nora Iwashyna ’27 was surprised to discover how different everyone’s average bubble size was. 

“I wasn’t expecting so many people to have their biggest bubble be from different dish soaps,” she said. “It was interesting to compare data and see the differences.” Conducting experiments is “a way to learn and try things without taking a test or doing a worksheet … when you don’t know what the answer is, it makes it more fun to discover it. I’m excited to see what other experiments we’ll do!”

Learning how to write a hypothesis, take proper metric measurements, create a graph using lab data, and write a solid conclusion are essential skills for scientists  — and something Steward students begin to learn from the time they are in Lower School.

“My students were so excited to be the ‘bubble blower’ that many did a ‘rock-paper-scissors’ game to see who would get to do that job,” said Mrs. Bain. “The smiles on their faces as they made predictions about which soap would produce the largest bubbles were never-ending.”

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