Following one of the suggested starter activities, ask the students if they were doing science. How is what they did similar to what scientists do? Encourage a brief discussion. This can be followed by An Introduction to the Understanding Science Flowchart in which students compare their activities with the work of scientist, Walter Alvarez. They are introduced to the Science Flowchart and are provided the opportunity to trace Alvarez’s scientific journey and then their own pathways.
Be sure to reinforce with students that the flowchart represents the scientific endeavor as a whole and that an individual investigation is unlikely to involve every single activity listed on the chart. Some students are inclined to “check off” boxes and consider a scientific endeavor lacking if it does not engage in all or most of the listed activities. However, science doesn’t work by “checking off” steps. It is a flexible, dynamic process in which each next step is influenced by what has already been learned and by the individuals engaged in the investigation. These points need to be made explicit by the instructor.
These themes can be reinforced throughout the year by having students map their own investigations (or those of other scientists) with paper and pencil on the flowchart, or by using our interactive journaling tool: the How Science Works web app.