In Module 1, students will begin to explore the components of the nature of science and scientific inquiry. We will lay the groundwork about what science IS and what science IS NOTand establish the goals of science – to generate or improve explanations of observations or events in the nature world. Further, we will develop an understanding about what scientific knowledge is and the roles of creativity and subjectivity in science.
In the first lesson, students begin to explore the idea that explanations are generated by evidence, which is fundamental to the development of scientific knowledge. Students generate evidence by making observations using their 5 senses (sight, taste, touch, smell, hearing) to gather information. They then use this information to develop inferences or possible explanations to help them explain their observations. This can sometimes be a tricky area, for both children and adults, as we tend to move directly into making inferences to explain “how things work.” However, it is important to understand that science is “empirical,” or based on data gathered from observations that are used to support inferences or explanations.
Throughout this module, students are guided to develop their own understanding of how scientists go about developing and answering questions. The goal here is to help students understand that the pursuit of science is driven by a curiosity about a natural phenomenon and the freedom to pursue that curiosity. Freedom is an important word in this context, as it is not a word people automatically associate with science. There is not one rigid set of steps or a singular “Scientific Method,” as historically taught. Instead, science is based on a process of creativity, which encompasses multiple ways to observe and measure. Some of these ways include systematic approaches to collecting information, identifying significant variables, formulating and testing hypotheses, and taking precise, accurate, and reliable measurements.
Science is not only creative, but it is subjective (i.e., influenced by an individual’s own perspective). Scientists come to the table with all sorts of background knowledge, which influence the questions they pose, the way they collect data, and how they interpret that data. Often, scientists have a “theoretical bias” or previously constructed explanations, which they draw upon to guide their work.
Although scientists may be interested in pursing the development of new ideas, they also continue to explore and build upon existing ideas. As such, scientific explanations are considered tentative, since they are open to revision as new knowledge advances and replaces old ideas. This does not mean that the old ideas were not accurate or reliable, but instead that science is open to change, based on new technologies and developments.
Lastly, in this module, emphasis is placed on developing the idea among students that science cannot nor does it try to answer all questions, such as those related to religion, the supernatural, moral values, or ethics. Science can only be used to explain phenomenon in the natural world.
Many of the ideas presented here will be reoccurring theme throughout the entire Habitat Tracker experience and can been seen across lessons in this module to set the stage for further learning. If you would like to review the topics discussed here in more detail, please visit our Nature of Science tab in the menu bar.
This module consists of 4 lessons and associated inquiry activities, and is expected to take 4 standard class periods. Lesson 1A and Lesson 1B can be taught in the same class period.
1A. Observation and Inference: Inquiry Activity “The Burning Candle”
1B. Defining Science & Its Goals: Inquiry Activity “Mystery Boxes”
2. Scientific Knowledge: Inquiry Activity “Fossil Footprints”
3. Boundaries of Science—What Science Is Not: Inquiry Activity “Of Sunsets, Souls, and Senses”
4. The Role of Subjectivity and Creativity in Science: Inquiry Activity “The Great Fossil Find”