Bats and fats – novel ways of teaching the scientific method

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Bats and fats – novel ways of teaching the scientific method

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Searching through the web as I do on a daily basis I come across many weird and wonderful scientific studies.  You know – the kind of things that make you wonder why they bothered.

Often if you read more closely you will find that there are sensible reasons for the research.  A couple that I have found this week are actually rather interesting and would make great contributions in lessons on the scientific method and planning experiments.

Story 1 – Why do bats prefer purple?

A study has found out that the colour of wind turbines may be the reason why they occasionally cause the demise of birds and bats.   The hypothesis was that it is the colour of the white turbines which attract insects, which in turn draw in the animals.

Scientists tested this by placing cards of different colours in front of a wind turbine.  They found that yellow attracted the most, followed by white and grey (the colour of most wind turbines).  Purple attracted the least insects.

Teaching idea/resource

This PowerPoint resource can be used with KS2-3 students.  It asks them to plan and carry out an experiment to find out if the scientists’ hypothesis is correct – do white turbines attract more insects?

The last slide contains some questions for them to analysis and evaluate their results and asks: because the study showed that purple wind turbines attract less insects, does this mean that less birds and bats would be killed by them if they were painted this colour, or could there be other reasons?

Story 2 – Can butter make you clever?

Scientist Seth Roberts decided to carry out a study on himself to see if eating butter would make him better at maths and the results show that yes it does!

Now, before the maths department starts stockpiling ‘Country life’, I suggest you take a closer look.  The link below contains a video where he explains his trial.  The general gist is that he carried out some mental arithmetic tests every day and saw he was getting faster – you would expect this.  However, one day he noticed that he suddenly got a lot quicker.  He put this down to eating butter so he decided to test this theory and started eating 4 tablespoons of butter every day and his times kept going down – he has some pretty convincing data to show this.

My thoughts after watching the video:  1.  It’s no good being better at maths if you’re dead of a heart attack. 2.  It needs to be trialled on more people – and that it where you can help.  A trial has been set up on ‘The Quantified Self’ website and is looking for volunteers to take part.  It starts on Wednesday so you still have time to sign up.

Teaching idea

This would be great for KS4/5 students.  Can they set up their own trial to investigate the claims? How are they going to make sure that they come up with valid and reliable evidence?   They could also take a look at the method for the trial on The Quantified Self website and comment on whether they think it will be any good.  As you can see, there are plenty of comments from others – what do you think?


Wind turbine news story

Video of Seth Roberts explaining his results.

The Quantified Self Butter Mind trial