Your Alternative to the Scientific Method: The Science Metamap

Scientific Method Alternative

I confess, I taught the scientific method when I was a high school science teacher even though I knew from my years of working in research labs that it was not how authentic science worked. In the real world, the design of experiments and the pursuit of answering or finding a solution to a scientific problem is never a clean nor linear process. In fact, it is very, very convoluted and full of failures, revisions, mistakes, new questions, and improvements along the way. Take a look at the video called How Science Works by the California Academy of Sciences, and you’ll see what I mean.

The scientific method is the format that scientists use to report on the science that they’ve done. However, it is not the actual process for how we do science. Think about how you write an essay on a research topic. You don’t do your research for that essay with an introductory paragraph! Instead, you take notes from multiple sources, brainstorm, outline, THEN write your essay, right? The process is messy! Much like how we use the essay structure in literacy, the scientific method is a format that puts order to the chaos of the process (and the process itself is very chaotic).

For students to experience authentic science, they must experience the messiness of science, too. During my graduate years at the University of Rochester, one of my mentors, April Luehmann, created giant posters, which she called Science Inquiry Maps, to capture all of that messy science. Rather than a linear process, the poster layout allowed students to record the steps, thoughts, data, and findings in their investigations as they were investigating. Later, students could use these Inquiry Maps to make presentations, explain their findings, and create films for the public.

I’ve created our own version of these maps for elementary, which you can download for free at the bottom of this post! These Science Metamaps replace the scientific method in the classroom, and they will help your kids capture and categorize the different kinds of information that they generate when they’re working on their investigations. There are two versions of the map, in both color and black-and-white. You can print and laminate poster-sized versions of the colored Metamap to use and reuse with students, or photocopy the black-and-white versions onto legal-sized paper for individual student copies. The Metamaps come with guiding questions to help students fill-out the different pieces. While it is true that these maps may not be ready for kindergarten and first grade, I am totally open to suggestions on how to adapt them!

If you have any questions on how to use the maps, suggestions on developing others, or just want to drop me a line, feel free to email me at Enjoy!!!

Fill out the form below to grab the free download! If you are already subscribed to our newsletter, check out this week’s newsletter for a direct download link!

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