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Lesson summary for:
What do you think it means to be human?


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This first lesson of the "What does it mean to be human?" sequence sets a scientific frame of mind for students as they begin to explore the question, “What do you think it means to be human?” This lesson sets an important tone by highlighting that other lines of human inquiry outside of science are important for answering this question on a personal level, but the class will focus on a scientific definition of “humanity.” Students learn to distinguish questions that could be addressed by the methods of science and those that could not, and they practice applying these criteria.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History


Life Science

50 minutes

Teaching tips:
This lesson was designed for AP biology, but would work for college students as well.

Correspondence to the Next Generation Science Standards is indicated in parentheses after each relevant concept. See our conceptual framework for details.

  • What is science?

  • Science aims to build increasingly broad and coherent explanations of the natural world.

  • Science focuses on natural phenomena and processes.

  • Science works only with testable ideas.

  • Moral judgments, aesthetic judgments, decisions about applications of science, and conclusions about the supernatural are outside the realm of science.

  • Scientists strive to test their ideas with evidence from the natural world; a hallmark of science is exposing ideas to testing.

Teacher background:

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