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What is the COMIC-E?

It is a mnemonic device for the seven major science process skills we use when we take on the role of scientists. These skills are classifying, observing, measuring, inferring and predicting, communicating, and experimenting.

Classifying happens when you put objects and events into groups based on certain properties. The most common properties for classifying are shape, size, and color. However, there are many different ways to classify objects and events. For example, you can classify animals into groups such as mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. You could also take some of those animals and make groups titled, "Mammals on Land" and "Mammals in Water." Classifying and observing are great partners for science. Without observation, classification becomes tough.

You have been observing your environment since you were a baby. Every time you used your senses to explore, you were making observations about your environment. When you use your senses, you identify objects and events based on their properties; notice changes in objects and events; and state differences and similarities of objects and events. Your senses help you to "make sense" of your world.

When you think of measuring, you often think of math. Measuring also happens in science to compare objects and events. Scientists use measurement to tell how long it takes for a liquid to boil. They also use temperature as a way to measure how hot the water becomes when boiled. Scientists measure lengths, volumes, and other dimensions. Standard tools and familiar objects can be used to measure or find quantity. Just think, when you were counting how many steps it took to get up the stairs, you were measuring like a scientist.

Inferring and Predicting are partners when it comes to scientific thinking. When you infer, you interpret or explain what you have observed. For example, you reach out to pet your friend's cat Fluffy, but she runs away. You begin to feel sad because you think Fluffy does not like you. Your observation helped you to infer Fluffy's reaction to you. Prediction happens when you try to say what will happen in the future by using your past observations. Maybe you have tried to pet Fluffy many times before, and she has run away each time. You may now hypothesize or wonder why Fluffy runs away from you. This may cause you to try again. You may also predict that if you try again, she will run away. Inferring and predicting is a huge part of what scientists do to solve scientific puzzles.

Communicating happens when scientists present the data or information they have learned. Scientists use charts, diagrams, models, and writing to share their observations. They also define words, describe objects or events, and record data to keep track of their work. It was the communication in Thomas Edison's lab journals and his models that helped to show the world his light bulb.

Finally, we get to the skill of experimenting or the "doing" part of science. When scientists experiment, they change objects and events and compare them to the original objects and events. For example, if you were a "milk" scientist, you may want to see what happens if you leave the milk on the kitchen counter. After a certain amount of time, your mother will probably tell you how that milk compares to milk left in the refrigerator. When you experiment, you must have a hypothesis or an idea to test. You must also compare objects or events that are changed with matching objects or events that are unchanged. This is called controlling variables. You would then need to design a procedure or series of steps to test your hypothesis. Scientists may use all or some of the other six science process skills when they experiment.

At this point, you probably realize you have had the COMIC-E all of your life. Therefore, you have always been a scientist.