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Integrating the nature and process of science: Samples of modified lessons

Almost any lesson can be modified to better incorporate, reinforce, and make explicit the nature and process of science. To see how, visit Modifying your current lessons and Additional tips and strategies. The lesson below is an example of a modified biology lesson. As Understanding Science continues to grow, new exemplars from other disciplines will be added.

Lesson: Clipbirds

Overview: Students are introduced to the process of natural selection and the essential requirements of variation, inheritance, selection, and time. In this activity, students simulate bird feeding with "beaks" that differ in size. The proportion of big-, medium-, and small-beaked birds changes in response to the available types of food. Clipbirds is a lesson on evolution, not on the nature and process of science. Nonetheless, there are modifications that can be made that can connect this simulation to actual science.

Suggested modifications:

  • Emphasize the importance of sharing and analyzing data. Each class of students will observe slightly different changes in their clipbird populations. Collect data from all classes to share with students. Compare the combined class results with those of the individual classroom. Why do they differ? Would students actually expect each class to get exactly the same results — even if they all implemented the procedure in the exact same way? Why or why not? Does having data from multiple classes increase or decrease their confidence in their conclusions about the activity? Use these questions to begin to explain issues of confidence and uncertainty in science.

  • Emphasize that science is done by people. This activity is based upon the research of Peter and Rosemary Grant who studied the changes in finch populations in response to environmental changes in the Galapagos Islands. Share the story of the Grants and their actual data found at Finch Beak Data Sheet. A more complete telling of the story can be found in the book, The Beak of the Finch, by Jonathan Weiner. Discuss benefits and outcome of the Grants' research.

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