Teaching science when you don’t know diddly-squat: Are you left or right-handed, and does it matter?


October 23, 2017 - Author:


The purpose is not to teach specific content, but to teach the process of science – asking questions and discovering answers. This activity encourages young people to try to figure things out for themselves rather than just read an answer on the internet or in a book. As a leader, try not to express your opinion, but let the youth engage in arguments based on evidence.

Time required

20 minutes or multiple days depending on the interest and questions the youth have


  • Several small balls (tennis ball works well)
  • Balls for kicking
  • Bucket, garbage can or other container
  • Pencils or pens
  • Writing paper

Science Practices

Asking questions and defining problems

Why are some people right-handed and others left-handed? Can people be both? What percent of the population do you think is right-handed? What percent do you do things right-handed? Lefthanded?

Planning and carrying out investigations

Begin by asking the following 10 questions:

  • What hand do you write with?
  • What hand do you use scissors with?
  • Which hand do you prefer to use to throw a ball?
  • Which foot do you prefer to kick a ball with?
  • Which hand do you strum a guitar with?
  • Which hand do you brush your teeth with?
  • Do you swing a bat left- or right-handed?
  • Which hand do you deal cards with?
  • Which hand holds the match when striking?
  • Which hand shoots a pistol?

Determine your dominant eye

Form a small triangle with both hands between your thumbs and index fingers at arm’s length away from your face. Look at a distant object through the triangle. Close your left eye and keep your right eye open. Next, close your right eye and keep your left eye open. If looking with your right eye keeps the object centered in the triangle, you are right-eye dominant. The opposite is true for the left eye.

Perform the following tests:

  • Toss a ball into a bucket. Play catch with a partner. Which hand do you prefer to catch and toss with?
  • Kick some balls around. What foot do you prefer to kick with?

Now try tossing a ball into a bucket, playing catch with a partner, and kicking a ball into a garbage can, sometimes using your left hand or right hand, and sometimes using your left foot or right foot. Is it more difficult or much the same? If difficult, to what degree? Try all three (tossing, catching and kicking) 10 times each left-handed and right-handed as well as with left and right feet. Record the results.

Using mathematics and computational thinking

Record the number of successful tries in 10 attempts.

Analyzing and interpreting data

How many people in the group are mostly right-handed? What about left-handed? How does this compare to the average? Approximately 90 percent of the world population is right-handed. Are some folks better with the nondominant hand?

Constructing explanations and designing solutions

Do you think the world is designed for right-handed people? Do you think left-handed people are more likely to have accidents in a right-handed world? Could you modify everyday things to make them more suitable for a left-handed person?

Engaging in argument from evidence

Are there advantages to being left-handed or right-handed? What are the advantages? Are there disadvantages to being either rightor left-handed? Name some specific activities.


Tags: 4-h, science & engineering

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