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Above Image: A group of tomatoes shown under a magnifying glass © Gabor Izso,

Definition: The skill of observing involves using the senses, as appropriate, to find out about the characteristics, properties and attributes of objects, places and events. Observation can be made directly with the senses or indirectly through the use of instruments which extend our capacity to observe.

Observing is important because…

  • it is a fundamental science process skill
  • it enables us to collect evidence which gives us information to make inferences
  • it is the key to understanding objects and phenomena as well as interactions between objects or phenomena
  • it is interconnected with skills such as describing, identifying patterns, comparing and contrasting and using appropriate vocabulary

Teaching and Learning Observing:



Use the senses as appropriate, for making observations of objects, places and events in their surroundings

Provide multiple opportunities for using all senses (e.g., sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste, etc.) in different contexts.

Use increasingly complex tools and instruments to extend their capacity to observe

Provide students with opportunities to practice using age-appropriate tools that extend their ability to observe. This could include the proper use of magnifying lenses, microscopes, telescopes, thermometers, rulers, measuring tapes, simple balances and spring scales, pH paper, anemometers, etc.

Observe in order to notice details (e.g., characteristics and properties of objects and events such as colour, shape, size, pattern, texture, temperature, duration etc.)

Encourage students to observe closely and pay attention to details of objects, places and events. Discuss and introduce specific measuring tools and instruments that can help students to make detailed observations beyond the capacity of our human five senses.

Make qualitative and quantitative observations using standard and non-standard measurements

Provide multiple opportunities to practice making qualitative (descriptive) and quantitative (numerical) observations of objects and events (e.g., the tomato plant has six flowers which are pale yellow in colour).

Understand and distinguish the difference between an observation and an inference

Provide examples and guided practice so that students understand the difference between observations and inferences (e.g., observation – the plant has yellow leaves; inference - the plant is not healthy).

See Five Senses Observation, Observation Pass, Q+Q Observations Organizer and What is the Same? What is different? learning strategies.

Adapted from IdeaPark by Let’s Talk Science.