Elementary Science Program

 

The Spam Test

 

Developed by: Kathy Weeks of the Beaverton School District

  • A good science inquiry question is one that can be answered by making observations and collecting data.

  • A good inquiry question can pass the "SPAM Test”

Simple:

  • Are we changing just one thing (variable) and measuring just one thing? (i.e. If you want to know if water will evaporate faster in an open or closed container, are you keeping all other conditions the same—amount of water, size and shape of container, location of container—and just changing one thing—putting a cover on one container?)

Practical:

  •  Do we have enough time to answer our question?
  •  Do we have the right tools to answer our question?
  •  Do we know how to use these tools?
  •  Will our investigation be safe?

Answerable:

  • Are the terms in our question well defined so we understand exactly what we're asking?
  • Are we able to collect data to answer the question?  (i.e. What exactly do we mean by "tall" and "short" if we ask, "Do we have more tall plants or short plants in our garden?"
  • What do we mean by "move" if we ask, "How many times does our pet guinea pig move in one minute?" Words such as "tall'', "short", and "move" need to be precisely defined.)

Measurable:

  • Can we observe and measure something to answer our question? (like the preceding criterion)

Depending upon the ages of your students and their understandings as you proceed with some inquiry in your class, you may want to directly share this mnemonic device with them as you talk about what makes a question good for an investigation. This would probably be more appropriate for third grade.