The Scientist’s Chantey

About 20 years ago, one of my jobs was to be a science advisor to elementary school teachers in Crownpoint, NM.  I developed teaching materials to get kids interested in science.  I created all sorts of classroom demos.  I photocopied M.C. Escher tesselation elements to teach the basic concepts of molecules and symmetry.  Kindergartners colored them and assembled them into designs tacked to the bulletin board.  Older kids created their own from scratch.  I floated cans of soda in a tub of water to teach about density, buoyancy, and Archimedes principle.  You can teach a lot of science with very inexpensive and simple hands-on demonstrations that kids love.  I especially wanted teachers to understand this, so they could continue doing this when I was no longer around to help.

The science advisor program was intended to do more than provide instruction about basic scientific concepts.  The primary purpose was to teach the scientific method, so that students and teachers would have the intellectual tools to continue on the path of evidence-based objective learning in their everyday lives.   We had an outline of the basic components of the scientific method, which is a branching algorithm:  define a problem, make observations, ask questions, generate a hypothesis, perform tests or experiments, analyze the data, and come to a conclusion.  The method is cyclic, and is never complete, because scientific conclusions always lead to the definition of new problems.

But I was teaching elementary school teachers and children, not college or graduate students.  So I took this algorithm and turned it into a song.  I wanted to make the point that science is a method, not an advanced degree.   Anyone who employs this method is a scientist, including elementary school kids.   So I had the teachers and kids sing this song, and they got it!  After two decades, I searched the bowels of my computer file system and was able to find it.  Here it is, for what it’s worth.

The Scientist’s Chantey

by Mark Boslough,

Sung to the tune of A Pirate’s Life for Me, from Pirates of the Caribbean

What do we do when we find something new and we don’t know how it could be?
Do we shake our head and go to be with an unsolved mystery?
Chorus:  OH NO!  We want to know!  Good scientists are we!

What do we want to learn about?  Is the first thing that we ask.
Once we decide what we need to find out we get on with the rest of the task.
Chorus:  Yo Ho!  We want to know!  Good scientists are we!

We look, we listen, we feel, we smell, to gather information.
We carefully use all five of our senses and powers of observation.
Chorus:  Yo Ho!  We want to know!  Good scientists are we!

The question we must always ask: Is our information right?
How do things happen?  What do they cause?  Is there an answer in sight?
Chorus:  Yo Ho!  We want to know!  Good scientists are we!

To find the answer we make a guess.  The best that we know how.
It could be right or it could be wrong.  But it’s good enough for now!
Chorus:  Yo Ho!  We want to know!  Good scientists are we!

To check our guess we think up a way to put it to the test.
If our guess was wrong it was still a success if it leads to a better guess.
Chorus:  Yo Ho!  We want to know!  Good scientists are we!

When our guesses are right most every time and we think we understand.
It’s time to debate and evaluate and arrive at a master plan.
Chorus:  Yo Ho!  We want to know!  Good scientists are we!

When we are sure the plan is right and there is no more confusion,
The mystery’s been solved by scientists who’ve come to their conclusion.
Chorus:  Yo Ho!  We want to know!  Good scientists are we!

If our answer leads to something new and we don’t know how it could be,
Do we shake our head and go to bed with an unsolved mystery????
Chorus:  OH NO!  We want to know!  Good scientists are we!  

GOOD SCIENTISTS ARE WE!

Escher Tesselation

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