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Thinking Inside the Box


Christopher T.  Bailey
Division of Natural and Mathematical Sciences
Wells College


In this particular take on the classic “Black Box Experiment,” students working in groups are given sealed boxes containing objects that they must make indirect observations about and then report their observations to the class in a simulated conference setting. An effective lead-in exercise to a discussion of the scientific method, it can also be used in a general chemistry course to teach students about atomic structure and how experimental evidence can be used to infer structure.


  • Practice making indirect observations.
  • Report observations in a mock conference setting.
  • Conduct a peer review of research proposals. 
  • Learn about atomic structure and how experimental evidence can be used to infer structure. 


Experimental evidence; indirect observations; atomic structure

Topical Areas

Scientific method

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division



Type / Methods

Interrupted, Role-Play, Student Presentations



Subject Headings

Chemistry (General)  |   Science (General)  |  

Date Posted


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