You’re a science teacher (presumably), so you’ve got students. They’re students in your class, so they’re aware that science is a thing. There’re probably some of them that are even good at science. But are any of them familiar with our old friend The Scientific Method? If not, or even if they are, this Demo Science science demo is a fun and easy way for them to acquaint (or reacquaint) themselves with that most fundamental of scientific processes.
Do Not Attempt With Rock or Scissors
Have your students work in pairs. You’ll need one piece of paper for each pair, and ideally you’ll have a different size or type of paper for each pair. So, if you’ve got 30 students, you’ll need 15 different sizes and/or types of paper. Notebook paper, printer paper, construction paper, tissue paper, etc. etc. Types might be hard, but sizes should be pretty simple. Hopefully you can get at least one really big, ridiculously oversized piece. It should be noted that this experiment works best if the paper is square—it doesn’t have to be, rectangles will work, but squares will work better.
Anyway, distribute the paper to your students, and have them lay their sheets out flat on their desks, or on tables or the floor if size requires. Ask your students to hypothesize how many times they’ll be able to fold their specific sheet of paper in half, and after they put their heads together for a while, write down each group’s “educated guess” on the chalkboard (or dry erase board, if that’s how you roll). You’ll likely receive as many different answers as you have groups.
Then, have ‘em start folding. Additionally, have them observe and record every step of their process—their “scientific method”—as they complete the experiment. What are their findings? What similarities do the different groups notice in those findings? Have each group write up a brief conclusion as to why they think they did or did not reach their predicted number of folds.
The problem or question for your students’ scientific method here is “How many times can the paper be folded in half?” The kids’ predictions for the number of folds are the hypothesis (hypotheses). The paper and your chalk/chalkboard or marker/dry erase board are the materials required. The procedure is, of course, folding the paper in half repeatedly until it can’t be folded any more. Their conclusions are the conclusion (conclusions)—that one’s a gimme.
Most of your students will probably max out at five or six folds. After each fold, the number of layers of paper that must be folded doubles, which adds up quickly. After one fold, you’ve two layers; after two, you’ve four layers; after three, you’ve eight; etc. Before long, you’re at 64 layers or 128 or 256, and it’s pretty darned hard to keep folding. The old saw is that no piece of paper, no matter how big, can be folded in half more than seven times.