Activity 2.1

Unobtrusive Observation

Part 1: "Know Thyself"


  1. Set the alarm to go off every two hours during a twelve hour period, beginning after you arise Saturday morning.
  2. Each time the alarm sounds note the following: BE SPECIFIC!

    exactly where you are
    what you are doing
    who you are with
  3. Reset the alarm and continue. You must have 6+ recorded observations at day's end!
  4. The next day, study your notes to determine:
  5. Summarize your data in any form you choose and be ready to present to the class.

Part 2: Observing Others

Trial 1


  1. Choose a time, place, and method where you can observe a human subject and record your observations, unnoticed, for one hour. (Hint: set out your homework on the kitchen table while a family member is preparing dinner).
  2. At predetermined intervals (every 10 minutes, for example), briefly and
    accurately record in "snapshot" style:

    where the subject is
    his/her body position
    what he/she is doing
  3. You must have at least 5 recorded observations. If the subject leaves the room before you can gather 5 data sets, you must move to a new position to gather your observations. However, the subject must not know he or she is being observed!
  4. Summarize your data in any form you choose and be ready to share it with the class.

Trial 2

  1. In the same location (if possible), repeat your experiment with the same subject the next day. This time, inform the subject that you are conducting an observation experiment for science class, and request his permission to observe and record his actions at timed intervals over a one-hour period.
  2. Follow steps 2, 3 and 4 as given above.
  3. You may answer questions and share your written data with the subject if asked, but do not change anything you have recorded!


Things to think about...

Did the observations change in any way in the two trials? How do you explain change or the absence of change? If there was any noticeable change, was it in the subject, the observer, or both? What did you notice about yourself? What is the role of interpretation in observation and recording data? Explain. Save for your portfolio.

Part 1


 Time  Activity   Location  Group

Tracking Summary:

 Habitat range:  



Part 2

Trial 1 Observations:

 Observed activity:  

Trial 2 Observations:

 Observed activity:  


Student Worksheet #2.1