Hypotheses and Theories - Bobcat Laboratories
Today was an interesting day in class.  We discussed our ideas of what the terms hypothesis, theory, and law mean in regards to how they are used in science.  We started with the word "theory." In everyday usage, it tends to mean an untested idea or opinion.  However, this can be very confusing in science because the word means exactly the opposite.  In science, a theory (e.g., Theory of Plate TectonicsAtomic Theory, the General Theory of Relativity, or Heliocentrism) refers to a concept that is well supported through extensive and repeated study and testing.  Needless to say, we spent a great deal of our time discussing different scientific theories and how they have been supported by enough evidence to actually be categorized as a scientific theory.

There is a term for an untested idea or opinion, as well, that we spent a large portion of time learning.  That term is "hypothesis." A hypothesis needs has four important parts:
  1. A declarative statement must be made. (i.e., I think it will rain tomorrow...)
  2. Supporting evidence or prior knowledge/understanding. (i.e., ...because it rained today and yesterday.)
  3. Number 1 and Number 2 need to relate to one another. (e.g., it would sound ridiculous to say "I think it will rain tomorrow because I just clipped my dogs's toenails.)
  4. The hypothesis must be a statement with supporting evidence that can be tested through experimentation.

If a hypothesis is not false after being tested over and over and over again, then we as scientists come to accept it as being factual...it can become a "theory."

Finally, we spent a brief amount of time on Scientific Laws.  A scientific law is an attempt to describe the basic nature of the Universe. Some examples include Newton's Laws of MotionKepler's Laws of Planetary Motion, and theLaws of Thermodynamics. Although a hypothesis can become a theory, theories do not become laws. 

I realize that this may seem like some really heavy stuff for our 6th grade scientists.  However, they were all evry interested and following the concepts quite well.

The greatest portion of class was used in developing hypotheses regarding a specific group of dinosaurs. As we continue this particular activity in class, we will be shown "new" data so we can figure out whether our hypotheses still apply.

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