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Introducing the Understanding Science Flowchart to middle school students

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Overview:
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.

Author/Source:
UCMP

Grade:
6-8

Discipline:
Nature and Process of Science, Earth science

Time:
1-2 class periods

Concepts:
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)

Teacher background:

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