Students read a story about Walter Alvarez and then plot his scientific journey on the Understanding Science Flowchart. Students find that science is seldom a linear story.
Nature and Process of Science, Earth science
1-2 class periods
Correspondence to the Next Generation Science Standards is indicated in parentheses after each relevant concept. See our conceptual framework for details.
- Science is both a body of knowledge and the process for building that knowledge. (NOS5)
- Science aims to build explanations of the natural world. (P3, P6)
- Science deals with the natural world and natural explanations.
- Science works only with testable ideas. (P2, P3, NOS2)
- Scientists strive to test their ideas with evidence from the natural world; a hallmark of science is exposing ideas to testing. (P3, P4, P6, P7, NOS2)
- Scientific knowledge is open to question and revision as new ideas surface and new evidence is discovered. (P6, NOS3)
- Science is ongoing; answering one scientific question frequently leads to additional questions to be investigated. (P1)
- Hypotheses and theories
- The real process of science is complex, iterative, and can take many different paths.
- The process of science involves observation, exploration, testing, communication, and application.
- Scientists test their ideas by predicting what they would expect to observe if their idea were true and then seeing if that prediction is correct. (P4, P6)
- Scientists can test ideas about events and processes long past, very distant, and not directly observable.
- Scientists test their ideas using multiple lines of evidence.
- Scientists often try to generate multiple explanations for what they observe. (P7)
- Scientists use multiple research methods (experiments, observations, comparisons, and modeling) to collect evidence. (P2, P3, P4, NOS1)
- Scientists look for patterns in their observations and data. (P4, P5)
- Raw data must be analyzed and interpreted before we can tell whether a scientific idea is likely to be accurate or inaccurate. (P4, P5)
- Different scientists may interpret the same data in different ways. (P7)
- Scientists aim for their studies to be replicable.
- Hypotheses are potential explanations for what we observe in the natural world. (P6)
- Hypotheses are usually inspired and informed by previous research and/or observations. They are not guesses. (P6)
- Accepted scientific theories are not tenuous; they must survive rigorous testing and be supported by multiple lines of evidence to be accepted. (P6, NOS4)
- Science depends on communication within the scientific community. (P7, P8)
- Scientists usually work collaboratively.
- Scientists check each other's work, often through peer review. (P7)
- The scientific community is global and diverse. (NOS7)