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Elementary Science Methods

Elementary Science Methods


Nature of Science Activity

Dowsing for Science


Essential Skills and Concepts: (Next Generation Science Standards)
Practices of Science & Engineering
Asking questions
Planning and carrying out investigations
Analyzing and interpreting data
Engaging in argument from evidence
Understanding the Nature of Science
What Students Will Be Doing: Is dowsing or Water Witching a scientific phenomenon?
Is the ability to use a divining rod to find hidden things buried in the ground like water, metal,
archeological sites, etc., based on science? In this activity, students will try water witching,
conduct simple experiments and then use the components of what is science to determine
whether water witching is really science or not.

Materials: 2 wire hangers

12 wooden beads
tools for bending wire (pliers, vice grips, etc.)

Hazard Warning: Dowsing rods are tools to be used safely, so keep your dowsing rod under
control at all times to avoid injury to others.

Lets Investigate:
Dowsing (also known as divining or water-witching and divining) is the ancient art of
searching for hidden things (water, precious metals, archeological finds, caves, etc.) using one of
the senses that many of us are not even aware of possessing . . . an ability to sense things not
perceptible to others. Reportedly 80% of people have this special gift in some it is much
stronger than others. [Calculate the number in your classroom that should have it.] Most people
need a tool to help them focus and read their body signals better. This is what the dowsing rods
are for.
40 cm

Building a set of dowsing rods: Preparing the dowsing rods before class will save valuable
class time. To build then begin by straightening two wire hangers. Cut two pieces, each about
50 cm long from the hanger wire. Bend the wires to obtain two identical rods with handles,
with a 90 degree angle between the handle and the main part of the rod (see drawing below).
The handles should be approximately 10 cm long. Bend the long end over a bit to keep the end
from being too sharp.

Elementary Science Methods

Use beads to form a handle that allows the wire to rotate easily on its own. Place several wooden
beads on the handle. Slightly bend the wire after it goes through the last bead to keep the
beads from falling off.
handle

Introducing the Topic to Students:


This activity presents an excellent opportunity for students to investigate the nature of science.
Dowsing is an intriguing phenomenon that some believe qualify as science while others do not.
Because there is not agreement on this issue, there is ample information on both sides that can
be located using the internet. To initially engage the students in this topic, it may be helpful to
find out if dowsing has been done in your area with any success.
What is Science? (its one of those words we use everyday, but may have difficulty saying
exactly what it is.) What are some of the characteristics of science? How do we know if
something is or is not science? Ask students to name some things they are pretty sure ARE
science and some things they believe are NOT science. Write student ideas on the whiteboard,
asking probing questions as you go. Student responses may include some of these ideas:

Science
biology
Newtons Laws
weather
astronomy
gravity
fossils

Not Science
magic
mind-reading
astrology
ESP
luck
ghosts
miracles

Do you think that what we did with See Spot Run was Science? Why? In See
Spot Run we were looking for an answer and we were using evidence to get one. There
was an explanation for how Spot was working. It was not magic.

Are there any examples you can think of in which scientists do not necessarily
agree about whether it is science or not? (Global Warming, evolution)

Elementary Science Methods


Wouldnt it be great if we could actually do an activity that scientists really cannot
agree on whether it is or is not science? - well there is actually something we can do and
will do!
Write Dowsing on the whiteboard (also Water Witching and Divining)
o Anyone have any idea about what this title might mean? (Hint:
also water witching.)
o Introduce the water witching rods and explain how they work.
Give pointers on their proper use. Some have the touch and some do not. I
dont.
o Tell gym water witching story.
Here is your job . . . . we have to determine who has the touch and who does
not. We are going outside for 5 minutes. The problem is that I do not have the touch
so I do not know where around here to look! Dont wonder off.

Holding your dowsing rod: It is important to hold the dowsing rod correctly.
Place the handle of the dowsing rod in the middle of your palm and close your hand. You
should have one rod in EACH hand. Do not hold the rods too tightly. Hold the main part
of the rods horizontally so they are parallel to the ground and attempt to keep them in that
position at all times. The rods should be parallel to each other (pointing straight out
ahead of you) when you begin.

Testing the rods: Go outside. One student needs to test the rods while the other
records the results. Start walking slowly in a straight line with the rods pointing out
ahead of you. When the rods move independently and cross each other over certain
points on the ground, you have located a buried treasure. Repeatedly check this
location and if you get the same results, you probably have a talent for dowsing! Be sure
to record where you have been and what success your dowsing has had. Trade places
with your partner and either dowse or record.

Regroup: How many got your water witching sticks to work? What happened?
Where were you when it happened?
Lets talk about how this relates to the nature of science. Is water witching
science? What can we do to prove it is science? What makes it science or not? Are
there certain characteristics of science principles that make them science? Write student
ideas on the whiteboard, then share the handout

Hand Briefly review the four criteria for science.


Discuss at your table, what experiments could you carry out to
help determine whether water witching is science or not.
o Share
o Discuss each of the 4 criteria: testable, observable, consistent and
natural. Students will have the most trouble with consistent and natural. Sharing
o

Elementary Science Methods


the excerpts from the two articles provided below will give students some ideas
about the scientific explanation real scientists are in disagreement about regarding
water witching. This addresses the natural component of science. The
Consistent criteria may also confuse students. They will debate that if it was
consistent, then it should work equally well for each and every student. Others
will argue that it is consistent because it works equally well for some individuals
every time. Let students wrestle with this through lively discussion. It is not
necessary for you to weigh in on this controversy. This discussion is best left
unresolved just like it is in the real scientific community.
o Time permitting, allow students to design their own fair tests and
to carry out those tests.
*1. Consistency: The results of repeated observations and/or experiments concerning a naturally
occurring event (phenomenon) are reasonably the same when performed and repeated by
competent investigators. The event is consistent.
*2. Observability: The event under study, or evidence of the occurrence of the event, can be
observed and explained. The observations are limited to the basic human senses or to
extensions of the senses by such things as electron microscopes, Geiger counters, etc. If the
phenomenon cannot be reproduced through controlled conditions, natural evidence of the
event's occurrence must be available for investigation.
*3. Natural: A natural cause must be used to explain why or how the naturally occurring event
happens. Scientists may not use supernatural explanations as to why or how naturally occurring
events happen because reference to the supernatural is outside of the realm of science. Scientists
cannot conduct controlled experiments in which they have designed the intervention of a supreme
being into the test.
4. Predictability: The natural cause of the event can be used to make specific predictions. Each
prediction can be tested to determine if the prediction is true of false. (I would skip this one
for elementary science, as it is too abstract for them.)
*5. Testability: The natural cause of the event must be testable through the processes of
science, controlled experimentation being essential. Reference to supernatural events or
causes are not relevant tests.
6. Tentativeness: Scientific theories are subject to revision and correction, even to the point
of the theory being proven wrong. Scientific theories have been modified and will continue
to be modified to consistently explain observations of naturally occurring events. (I would
skip this one for elementary science, as it is too abstract for them.)

NOTE: For teaching elementary science, focus should be placed on these 4


criteria alone: Consistent, Observable, Testable and Natural.

Elementary Science Methods

Articles about Water Witching:


Opinion: Dowsing is Scientifically Valid:
FINALLY NEW SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE BEHIND DOWSING
by Ken Tylosky of Battle River Technologies
Divining rods and all common dowsing devices, are the simplest forms of
electroscopes. The divining rods are charged with static electricity from the
dowser's own body. This static electricity can be seen quite adequately with a
simple millivolt meter. The amount of voltage will vary depending on the person. A
good dowser will have a high reading, "above 100 mv" while a poor dowser may
read as low as,"0 mv." For males the right hand is usually a negative polarity, and
the left hand is positive in polarity. These polarities are usually reversed in females.
The divining rod charged positively will rotate in the dowsers hand to line up
parallel to a negatively charged object being dowsed. This can easily be proven by,
dowsing over negatively and positively charged objects.
Opinion: Dowsing is Scientifically Invalid:
WATER WITCHING: THE DEAD CAT AROUND THE NECK
OF THE WATER WELL DRILLING INDUSTRY
by E.H. Boudreau (Registered Geologist #3,000)

Like any other industry based on scientific facts, there is no place in the well
drilling industry for superstitious practices based on ignorance. This being the case,
it is best to begin educating the reader by driving out of his mind any acceptance
he might have as to the legitimacy of witching for water. Witching thrives on the
average person's lack of training in geology and hydrology, and his not being able
to see ground water in place, all of which tend to make ground water something of
a mystery. Like any other industry based on scientific facts, there is no place in the
well drilling industry for superstitious practices based on ignorance. This being the
case, it is best to begin educating the reader by driving out of his mind any
acceptance he might have as to the legitimacy of witching for water. Witching
thrives on the average person's lack of training in geology and hydrology, and his
not being able to see ground water in place, all of which tend to make groundwater
something of a mystery.

Elementary Science Methods


Gathering more data: Gather data from several other student pairs and informally discuss your
results. As a small group, draw conclusions about the scientific validity of your results.

Extension Ideas
Here are some additional ideas you may want to use. You will need to simplify the wording for
elementary aged students:
The Fout Criteria of Science: Consistent, Observable, Natural, and Testable. The sequence is
not important, but it helps to remember the starting letter in this order: CONT.
Read through the explanation of each of the four criteria, then answer the questions.
1. Consistency: The results of repeated observations and/or experiments concerning a naturally
occurring event (phenomenon) are reasonably the same when performed and repeated by
competent investigators. The event is consistent.
REALITY CHECK #1: Which of the following is a scientific statement, and which one is not
a scientific statement?
a. Green plants will grow towards a light source. _______________________

b. Walking under a ladder will cause bad luck. ________________________


Using the idea of "Consistency", how can we determine which statement above is a
scientific one? ______________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________
2. Observability: The event under study, or evidence of the occurrence of the event, can be
observed and explained. The observations are limited to the basic human senses or to
extensions of the senses by such things as electron microscopes, Geiger counters, etc. If the
phenomenon cannot be reproduced through controlled conditions, natural evidence of the
event's occurrence must be available for investigation.
REALITY CHECK #2: which of the following is a scientific statement, and which one is not
a scientific statement?
Some plants eat meat. _____________________
b. Extraterrestrial beings have visited Earth. ____________________

a.

Elementary Science Methods


Using the idea of "Observability", how can we determine which statement above is a
scientific one? ______________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________
3. Natural: A natural cause must be used to explain why or how the naturally occurring event
happens. Scientists may not use supernatural explanations as to why or how naturally occurring
events happen because reference to the supernatural is outside of the realm of science. Scientists
cannot conduct controlled experiments in which they have designed the intervention of a
supreme being into the test.
REALITY CHECK #3: which of the following is a scientific statement, and which one is not
a scientific statement?
a.

Green plants convert sunlight into energy. ______________________

b. With a rod, Moses parted the sea so his people could cross to the other side. ___________
Using the idea of "Natural", how can we determine which statement above is a scientific
one? ______________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________
4. Testability: The natural cause (mechanism) of the naturally occurring event must be testable
through the processes of science, controlled experimentation being essential. Reference to
supernatural events or causes are not relevant tests.
REALITY CHECK #5: which of the following is a scientific statement, and which one is not
a scientific statement?
a. The Bermuda Triangle causes ships and planes to sink and disappear. ________________

b. Life comes from life and cannot come from non-life. ______________________
Using the idea of "Testability", how can we determine which statement above is a scientific
one? ______________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________

Elementary Science Methods


Here is a summary of the CONPTT grid:
Criteria
Consistent
Observable

Natural

Predictable
(skip this for
elementary
students)
Testable
Tentative
(skip this for
elementary
students)

Within the Realm of Science


Experimental results and
observations are the same
The phenomenon (event) or evidence
for the event can be observed by the
human senses or by tools using
senses.
A natural cause or naturally
occurring mechanism is used to
explain how or why an event
happens.
Accurate predictions and conclusions
are based on natural causes NOT on
magic or supernatural causes.
Controlled experiments can be
designed to test the natural cause of
the event.
Explanations (laws, theories,
hypotheses) of the cause for the
event are subject to change as more
evidence is gathered.

Outside the Realm of Science


Experimental results and observation
are different
The phenomenon (event) or evidence
for the event can NOT be observed by
the senses or by tools using senses.
A natural cause or naturally occurring
mechanism cannot be or is not used to
explain how or why an event happens.
Accurate predictions and conclusions
are not based on natural causes but
may be explained by magic or
supernatural causes.
No controlled experiments are
possible.
The explanations of the cause of the
event canNOT be changed.

Elementary Science Methods

Connecting this skill with local person with dowsing skills would also increase student interest.
You may wish to share some of the following two short articles with the students prior to the
activity:
Opinion: Dowsing is Scientifically Valid:
FINALLY NEW SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE BEHIND DOWSING
by Ken Tylosky of Battle River Technologies
(Instrumentation Services - Maintenance & Construction)
Divining rods and all common dowsing devices, are the simplest forms of electroscopes.
The divining rods are charged with static electricity from the dowser's own body. This static
electricity can be seen quite adequately with a simple millivolt meter. The amount of voltage will
vary depending on the person. A good dowser will have a high reading, "above 100 mv" while a
poor dowser may read as low as,"0 mv." For males the right hand is usually a negative polarity,
and the left hand is positive in polarity. These polarities are usually reversed in females. The
divining rod charged positively will rotate in the dowsers hand to line up parallel to a negatively
charged object being dowsed. This can easily be proven by, dowsing over negatively and
positively charged objects.
Opinion: Dowsing is Scientifically Invalid:
WATER WITCHING: THE DEAD CAT AROUND THE NECK
OF THE WATER WELL DRILLING INDUSTRY
by E.H. Boudreau (Registered Geologist #3,000)
Like any other industry based on scientific facts, there is no place in the well drilling
industry for superstitious practices based on ignorance. This being the case, it is best to begin
educating the reader by driving out of his mind any acceptance he might have as to the
legitimacy of witching for water. Witching thrives on the average person's lack of training in
geology and hydrology, and his not being able to see ground water in place, all of which tend to
make ground water something of a mystery.

Elementary Science Methods