One of the more important traits a scientist can have is the ability to observe. Helping our students become better observers can be tricky. Observation is a soft-skill and can be difficult to teach directly. In my experience I also find that students tend to rush through labs to obtain the answer quickly. This desire for speed is contrary to the pace required for careful, precise observation.
My solution for helping students become better observers is the science journal. The purpose of the science journal is to encourage students to observe the science happening all around them. The scope of the project allows for careful observations to be made which can then proceed into conclusions and validations of hypotheses. As an added bonus, the journal integrates literacy into the science classroom. I encourage my students to select topics that appeal to them to increase investment in the project.