Maintaining acccurate, detailed knowledge at the same time as thinking creatively can be a very difficult, if not confusing, concept to master. This is especially true with young scientists who have such natural curiosity and clear, colorful imaginations.  It is easy for children scientists to transform what they observe to what they "think" their observation should be. Observations of insects can be easily drawn incorrectly (e.g., an ant drawn with three body segments but with a pair of legs for each segment, rather than their legs extending from their thorax). Science needs accurate details combined with highly creative ideas but the creativity needs to be appropriately placed inorder to prevent serious misconceptions.

Part of expressing creative ideas while representing observations realistically requires, at least, a basic understanding of the elements of art (line, shape, color, value, space, and texture). By understanding these aspects, students can do a better job of expressing their observations without introducing the bias of any preconceived ideas they might have. Describing data in written form goes hand-in-hand with presenting it visually and spatially and all of this beeds to be done accurately before any analysis or reflection on the the data can be performed.

Today we began with lines and shape. Observing and describing observations begins with understanding objects as basic geometric shapes. Once someone understands the basics of lines and shapes, and can apply that to the objects they are observing, (s)he becomes more able to observe and describe their observations verbally or visually in a more accurate manner.

Our activity today involved two primary steps.
  1. Studenst were provided a "Mystery Box" which contained 6 items of various shapes, sizes and textures.  Without looking at any of the objects, students needed to draw in their science notebooks how they perceived them.
  2. Each table of students were given a plastic cup and one of the objects from within one of their "Mystery Boxes."  After stacking them, they were required to draw what they saw, without moving the item or changing their perspective of the item.

In these activitities, students were able to see that our interpretation of what something is and how we observe it can be very different things.  They also learned first-hand that many people can be looking at the same thing but see it in very different ways. (Not to mention, seeing it in different ways and then understanding other peoples interpretations in ways that they did not intend.)

Science is teeming with misconceptions that arise from simple observations and misinterpretations.  Starting at the most basic understanding of observation and record keeping is the best way to minimize such problems.