Anybody can teach science: Do moms really have eyes in the back of their head?

Teach science with a plate of cookies—it's that easy!

You don’t need all the answers to teach science—you simply need an inquisitive mind and be willing to carry out an investigation. You can teach science, even when you don’t know diddly-squat! The following is a simple experiment you can try with a plate of cookies. The purpose is not to teach specific content, but to teach the process of science: asking questions and discovering answers. This activity is to encourage young people to try to figure things out for themselves rather than just read an answer on the internet or in a book.

Do moms really have eyes in the back of their head?

This activity can be done in 20 minutes or multiple days, depending on the interest and questions the youth have. Materials needed include a mother (or several) with her own children, other non-mother adults, other children, lots of cookies, pencil and paper.

Use Science and Engineering Practices to engage youth in the experiment. These are connected to in-school science standards that all children must meet.

  • Asking questions and defining problems
  • Developing and using models
  • Planning and carrying out investigation
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Using mathematics and computational thinking
  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions
  • Engaging in argument from evidence
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Asking questions and defining problems

Do moms know what their kids are doing without seeing them? It is something many children have suspected when their mom catches them doing something they shouldn’t. Is there a way to test this? Are moms better than other adults at knowing which children are engaged in bad behavior? Are they better at catching their own children?

Planning and carrying out investigations

Tell the youth they are not supposed to eat any cookies. Place the cookies on the table. Have the mother in a place where she cannot see the children or the cookies (she could simply have her back turned). Have both the related and non-related children try to sneak a cookie. If the mother calls out a specific child’s name when they are sneaking a cookie, the child has to put the cookie back. Track who gets cookies and who gets caught using the table below.

Analyzing and interpreting data

Run the experiment several times with different adults, and fill out the following chart:


Mom’s Children Caught

Other Children Caught

Mom’s Children Not Caught

Other Children Not Caught

 Using mathematics and computational thinking

Can you calculate what percent of times moms caught their own kids?

Constructing explanations and designing solutions

Were moms better at catching their own children? Were moms better than non-moms at catching the cookie stealers?

Engaging in argument from evidence

Would you say moms have an ability to know when their kids are misbehaving based on this experiment? Why or why not?

Related questions to explore:

  • Could you run this test to see if kids were good at catching adults misbehaving?
  • Are certain professions better at being sneaky than others, such as private investigators, police detectives, etc.? Could you test this question?
  • Can moms predict bad behavior in adult children?
  • Do grandparents have the ability to predict this behavior?

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