How to Keep a Science Notebook
A science notebook is an important tool for students of any age. Learn how you, as teachers or parents, can guide young scientists in using this valuable aid to science discovery and learning.
Why Keep a Science Notebook?
Writing notes helps students understand science lessons better and remember the details of experiments more clearly. Writing down what they did and what happened can help them understand the scientific process. Lab notebooks encourage thinking about the "what happened" side of each experiment and understanding the science principles that make the results what they are.
Also, keeping notes encourages students who are not as scientifically-minded to think about the experiment in a different way. For students who dislike hands-on work, but enjoy writing down what happened, the lab notebook is a great tool. Art-inclined students will appreciate making detailed drawings in their science notebook as part of an experiment or nature study.
Who Should Keep a Science Notebook?
Younger students can draw and write big ideas in their notebook. This is a tool for science learning but also reinforces developing reading and writing skills at the K-2 grade levels. At this age, entries in the science notebook could include a before and after drawing of an experiment, a leaf rubbing from a nature walk, a labeled drawing of tree parts, or a list of the five senses. Encourage students to use colors that make sense and to sound out words or copy from an example.
Older elementary students (grades 3-6) will enjoy using a science notebook to keep notes. These students can write down their predictions or list the steps of an experiment. Encourage organization on the page, so science notebooks display what students know in a clear and attractive manner. You may also use the science notebook as a sort of science journal, keeping daily notes of observations for longer experiments or studies (for example, studying the life cycle of mealworms, or observing fungi growth).
A science notebook is also a great tool for middle school and high school students. Learners at this age level should incorporate the scientific method into their science notebook entries. Have students make observations, write down a hypothesis, and keep track of their experiments. What variables were used? Was the experiment successful? A concise written conclusion, explaining what happened and why, should be the last science notebook entry for each experiment.
How Do You Keep a Science Notebook?
We recommend using a one-subject notebook with a sturdy cover to help keep notes safe from splashes and spills. Its unlined paper and compact size make our Nature Notebook ideal for drawing and writing science notebook entries at any grade level.
Students also may record experiment results with a sheet of graph paper. To write each step of an experiment, lined paper may work best. Encourage students to organize each entry using clear headings, such as Observations, Predictions, Experiment Process, and Conclusions. Doing this can help them remember experiment details and why what happened was important.
Recording failed attempts of experiments is an important part of learning, too! If an experiment doesn't work out the first time, have students look at their notes to determine if they followed procedure correctly or missed a step. Then have them try again and record the results, being sure to note what they did differently. All those details are helpful in understanding an experiment.