Middle school students took part in an exercise designed to help them understand that scientists don’t always know the answers to questions and how collaboration and experimentation help to inform understanding.

They worked with a sealed tube with rope coming out of 4 holes. They manipulated the ropes and the tube to observe how it works (it makes noise when you shake it) and to determine what it might look like inside the tube. They discussed over 20 hypothetical drawings of the inside of the tube and then they students were asked to make a model (using one of their drawings) so they could see how well the model behaved compared to the real tube.

Without exception, the students wanted to break open the tube to see exactly what was inside but they had to learn that scientists often can only hypothesize and model and not always see for themselves.