What is an example of a community problem that can be solved through the scientific method?

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When problem solving, knowing the scientific method can come in handy. For problems plaguing a community (parking, pool hours, neighborhood fees, recycling bins), community members can apply the scientific method to develop solutions.

The scientific method beings with a question (perhaps stemming from an existing problem). For example, a community member may notice the entire neighborhood has overflowing recycling bins on recycling pick-up day. Since recycling pick-up only happens on Mondays, the community member may ask: Do we need an additional recycling pick-up day to support the amount of recycled material in our community? To investigate this issue, the community member can apply the scientific method.

1) Ask a question: The community member began by asking, "Do we need additional recycling pick-up days to support the amount of recycled material in our community?"

2) Do background research: The community member may start to ask neighbors and other community members what their experiences are with recycling. Do they feel adequately supported by the frequency of recycling pick-ups? The community member may conduct a survey (through mail, over the phone, in person) to get answers to questions about recycling. Finally, the community member may ask leaders from other neighborhoods what their recycling pick-up frequency is.

3) Construct a hypothesis: After investigating the issue, the community member will develop a hypothesis. For example, the community member may say, "This community would be better served by a twice-weekly recycling schedule to accommodate the amount of recycled material."

4) Test hypothesis: The community member may then lobby the neighborhood to include an extra day of recycling; this process is an experiment.

5) Analyze results: The community member will then re-investigate the issue to determine if his or her hypothesis is supported in the experiment (adding another recycling day).

6) Draw conclusion: The community member will conclude that either the hypothesis was supported and the solution was appropriate or the hypothesis was not supported and the solution was not appropriate. In this step, the community member may decide the issue is solved or determine more research and experimentation is needed to solve the problems plaguing the community.

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