The power of observation

Author(s): SEP Coordinators

Lesson Overview

Grade level(s):

Elementary School (K-5), Middle School (6-8), Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6, Grade 7, Grade 8


Science Skills


Observing, science skills

Big ideas(s):

Detailed observations and descriptions are very important in science to help identify differences and similarities of objects.
Quantitative descriptions, such as measurements, are sometime more useful when trying to distinguish one object from the next.

Vocabulary words:

observation, description, properties,

What you need:

  • SEP Kit K326: The power of observation Kit (contains sets of 5-6 similar looking objects and paper cups)
  • handlens kit (SEP kits: E237 or E509)
  • optional: rulers

If you don't have access to the SEP Resource Center you will need:

  • similar looking objects for each group (4-5 students): beads, gemstones, marbles, rocks
  • paper cups
  • hand lenses
  • optional: ruler


Students work in groups of 4-5



Time needed:

20-30 minutes

Author Name(s): 
SEP Coordinators

Students each receive similar looking objects (marble, gem stone, bead, rock) and are given some time to make and record as many observations as possible. Then students at each table group mix up their objects and take turns reading out their descriptions while the rest of the group is trying to identify the described object.

Prerequisites for students: 

Students need to have adequate vocabulary to describe the properties of the object.

Learning goals/objectives for students: 

Students will be able to describe objects in great detail, using a variety of senses and measurements

Getting ready: 

Prepare a cup with the needed number of similar looking objects for each table group (1 object per student).
Have handlenses and rulers ready.

Lesson Implementation / Outline


Tell students that making observations is a very important part of being a scientist. Just like any skill, we need to practice it to become better at it. Tell students that they will each get an object and that their task is it to describe it in as much detail as possible. Explain that they can describe it in words, draw it, trace it, and measure it if they like.

  • Hand out observation sheet.
  • Give students about 5 minutes to record their observations. After about half the time, tell students that they can use hand lenses and rulers to see more details of their object and make additional observations.
  • Walk around the room and encourage students to draw or trace their objects in addition to describing it in words. Some ELL students might need some additional help with descriptive vocabulary.
  • Once students had enough time to record their observations, have them put their object into the cup at the center of their table group, mix up the objects and gently pour them out in the middle of the table.
  • Tell students that now they will use their descriptions to pick out their object among the others. Explain that students will take turn reading out their descriptions in order that they wrote them down. The rest of the table group is tasked with finding the described object. Once everyone in the group has decided on which object is being described, the reader will reveal his/her object (if they are able to identify it). Then it's the next person's turn until everyone went.
  • Collect all materials before moving on to the wrap-up.
Wrap-up / Closure: 

Ask students if it was easy or hard to identify other people's object using their description. Hear some students' thoughts.

Ask if there were some descriptions that were more useful than others. (Identifiers that distinguished their object from all others are most useful; quantitative data such as length, width, weight is also often more useful; drawings/tracings can be helpful as well if accurately done)

Have students brainstorm situation where observation skills are useful.

my_object.doc27 KB
NGSS Topics
Kindergarten through Grade 5: 
NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas
NGSS Performance Expectations
NGSS Performance Expectations: 
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts: