About Understanding Science
Understanding Science (US) is a non-commercial, educational website, for teaching and learning about the nature and process of science. Its immediate goals are to (1) improve teacher understanding of the nature of the scientific enterprise, (2) provide resources and strategies that encourage and enable K-16 teachers to reinforce the nature of science throughout their science teaching, and (3) provide a clear and informative reference for students and the general public that accurately portrays what science is and how science really works. This site is a project of the University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP).
Understanding Science was informed and initially inspired by our work on the Understanding Evolution project. US is now one of a suite of three educational websites produced by the UCMP that are designed to support teaching and learning about foundational science content:
- Understanding Science focuses on the nature and process of science
- Understanding Evolution focuses on evolutionary biology
- Understanding Global Change focuses on Earth systems
Each of these resources connect many disparate concepts to support deep, coherent understandings of Earth and biological sciences, and how we use science to learn more about the world around us. We invite you to explore our sister sites to further enrich your teaching and learning.
This site was originally funded by NSF and is the result of collaboration among a diverse group of scientists, teachers, designers, and web experts. We are indebted to the following individuals, who have all contributed to its success:
BSCS, an independent research and evaluation group with expertise in science education, conducted a multi-component evaluation of Understanding Science materials and tools. The evaluation involved a year-long in-service training program and indicated that site materials generate a high level of teacher buy-in, meaningful increases in student understanding, and reports of increased student motivation. Read the evaluation report. The Institute of Museum and Library Services helped fund a redesign of the Understanding Science site, as well as the development of our Science Stories section and new content on bias in science, which launched in 2022. Read the evaluation report from that project.
External support for Understanding Science has been provided by The National Science Foundation (under grant no. EAR-0624436 and a supplement to that grant). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. Our 2022 overhaul of the site was funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (under award no. MA-10-19-0539-19). The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this website do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Acknowledgement of grants that funded specific resources within this website are provided in footnotes on those pages. Graduate student support was provided by the College of Letters and Science (Biology Division), the Department of Physics, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research of the University of California Berkeley. In addition, the UCMP provides ongoing financial support for the site and its maintenance.
If you are interested in funding the continued development of US, please write to email@example.com.
Understanding Science was recognized in December 2010 by the Science Prize for Online Resources in Education (SPORE). This prize was established to encourage innovation and excellence in education, as well as to encourage the use of high-quality on-line resources by students, teachers, and the public. Read about Understanding Science in Science.
Understanding Science has been endorsed or sponsored by the following organizations and individuals:
- The California Association of Science Educators
- American Institute of Biological Sciences
- Bioquest Curriculum Consortium
- Botanical Society of America
- Deep Earth Academy
- Encyclopedia of Life
- National Association of Geoscience Teachers
- Norman G. Lederman, a leader in research on teaching the nature and process of science
- National Association of Biology Teachers
- The Northwest School
- Penn Arts & Sciences
Understanding Science is being used in a variety of educational settings. Several textbook authors now use the Science Flowchart to replace less accurate, linear representations of the process of science:
- Campbell Biology, 10th edition, by Jane B. Reece, Lisa A. Urry, Michael L. Cain, Steven A. Wasserman, Peter V. Minorsky, and Robert B. Jackson, 2014
- Biology, by Ken Miller and Joseph Levine, 2010
- Environmental Science, by Jay Withgott, 2011
- Microbiology Fundamentals: A Clinical Approach, by Marjorie Kelly Cowan, 2013
Educators are using Understanding Science resources in all sorts of ways. For example:
- The Chicago Academy of Sciences has used the Science Checklist and other materials from Understanding Science in lesson plans for Science on the Go, a program for the Chicago public schools.
- The Science Flowchart has been distributed to all students at Brigham Young University, Idaho as part of their Foundations of Science course.
- Students at Florida State University have used Asteroids and Dinosaurs and the flowchart to learn about the process of science in their General Biology course.
- A teacher in Hungary uses the site to make science more relatable to students oriented towards the humanities.
- Understanding Science materials have even been used at teacher workshops in Africa. Learn more about this exciting project in Tanzania.
What students and educators say about the site
“I love the nonlinear representation, which, of course, is much more like how science is done.”
– Marjorie Kelly Cowan, author of Microbiology Fundamentals
“We have found your ‘Understanding Science’ website extremely useful in this course where we introduce the scientific process to all of our university’s students. We really love the ‘How science works’ diagram, and have roughly based the entire course on this diagram and examining the various aspects of science highlighted there.”
– Aaron Johnson, BYU chemistry professor
“I am writing to request permission to print and post the NOS flowchart to post in secondary science classrooms in our district. My school division is Newport News Public Schools, Va. I am one of the curriculum writers and thought the site did such a good job we included it in ALL of our content areas. We are trying to change the thinking from ‘Scientific Method’ which our teachers have used for years, along with some of the other misconceptions. The site is excellent!”
– Melia, Newport, VA
“I am a DBA student at Capella University and have just started a course called ‘Research Foundations,’ for which I am woefully unprepared. I have been flailing around on the internet looking for straightforward definitions/explanations when I stumbled across your site. What a godsend! I think that when I get done reading and printing the information on your site, I will be prepared to read all of the articles and readings assigned by my professor AND ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND THEM!! Thank you so much for the simple, to-the-point definitions and explanations. You have really helped me.”
– Janice from Carr, Colorado
“Back in January, I wrote to you about adapting your “How Science Works” flowchart into a tee shirt design for our school science fair. We also used a portion of the design for the science fair ribbons. The science teachers were very happy with the shirt and I think the students were too.”
– Kathleen Reeves, STA Science Fair Chair
“I wanted to share with you that I used Understanding Science in a Teaching Evolution seminar and Lil Tong, who does faculty development at UW, was so taken with it that she immediately introduced it to a group of faculty focusing on teaching non-majors. Everyone I have shown the site to is so impressed, so thanks for building another great resource!”
– Kristin Jenkins, PhD, National Evolutionary Synthesis Center
“I am working as part of a National Science Foundation sponsored Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program at MIT Haystack Observatory in Westford, Massachusetts. My project focuses on developing high school science curriculum regarding climate change in the lower and upper atmosphere. As part of the project, I’m designing a unit on analyzing data and I would very much like to incorporate ‘Your Science Toolkit’ from ‘Understanding Science 101’ to enrich student learning.”
– Katy Haughn, MIT Haystack Observatory