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Classroom activity:
What's the Picture?

Adapted from Solving the Puzzle, Teacher's Guide to Evolution - a journey into where we're from, and where we're going, a project of WGBH television and Clear Blue Sky Productions.


Students use evidence gained by gradually revealing jigsaw puzzle pieces to experience the process of science.


A 300-500-piece jigsaw puzzle divided into six individual envelopes. (Best to eliminate the edge pieces.)


  1. Give each team of students an envelope of jigsaw pieces.

  2. Students draw 20 pieces randomly from the envelope.

  3. Based upon the evidence at hand, each team proposes a hypothesis about what the jigsaw picture portrays.

  4. Write the hypotheses and the evidence on the board and differentiate between observations and inference.

  5. Have teams select 20 more puzzle pieces from the envelope. Ask them to refine their original hypothesis based upon the additional evidence. (The new evidence may support their original hypothesis.)

  6. Have teams select five more pieces and repeat the process of hypothesis revision.

  7. Have teams share their findings with the rest of the class. Ask students to walk around the classroom to see the evidence uncovered by the other teams.

  8. Allow each team to adjust their hypothesis according to the total evidence revealed by the class.

  9. Lead a discussion to consider how this activity models the process of science.

  • Making observations and inferences

  • Revising hypotheses based upon new evidence

  • Collaborative work

  • Personal biases of the investigators (previous knowledge)

Click here for a text only, student version of this activity.

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