Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What's in the box?

Students experimenting
with the black box.
In science class, we just concluded our work with "the black box" project. We referred to this as the black box because students never see what is inside. Wikipedia  describes a black box as "a device which can be viewed solely in terms of its input, output and transfer characteristics without any knowledge of its internal workings."

With the investigation into the black box concluded, the students had to design what they imagine could be the apparatus inside the black box. Using observation and experimentation the students had to use their data to help define the inner workings. Students discovered that when water was added, sometimes only a fraction of the water exited the box. Other times, the black box released more water than was added. Students had to make inferences about what would cause water in the box to behave in this manner.

Students had to defend their ideas in class by explaining how well their concepts matched the data collected during the investigation. The class discussed each team's ideas and helped them to make needed modifications.

At the end of the project, the students completed a writing activity where they discussed their confidence in their designs. Through the course of the black box experience, students were employing skills in perseverance, teamwork, critical and skeptical thinking, and problem-solving. You can see student work on the lab blog at

Student model of the inner
workings of the black box.
Student explanation for the
black box phenomenon.