The Nature of Science

This teaching box engages middle and high school students  in the Nature of Science – what it is and what it isn't – along with activities to ensure explicit engagement in scientific ways of knowing. 

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This teaching box engages middle and high school students  in the Nature of Science – what it is and what it isn't – along with activities to ensure explicit engagement in scientific ways of knowing. 

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One thing I have learned in a long lifetime:  that all our science measured against reality, is primative and childlike -- and yet it is the most precious thing we have.    —Albert Einstein

Topic: Scientific Ways of Knowing and the Nature of Science

UCAR Center for Science Education Teaching Boxes are themed collections of classroom-ready educational resources to build student understanding of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Resources highlighted within teaching boxes are developed from UCAR Center for Science Education and other credible education programs, and have been vetted by the Center's education team.

Level:  Middle School and High School, adaptable for upper elementary

How to use this resource: This teaching box is designed to illustrate the interconnections between scientific practices that encompass characteristics of science, and the process of doing science. Participation in these practices helps students form an understanding of what science is and isn't, and can enhance understanding of the crosscutting concepts and disciplinary core ideas expressed in the Next Generation Science Standards and other standards-related documents. Moreover, the box’s various activities are designed to make students' knowledge about science more meaningful and embed it more deeply into their worldview.

Performance Expectation and Standards:

"Students must have the opportunity to stand back and reflect on how the practices contribute to the accumulation of scientific knowledge. This means, for example, that when students carry out an investigation, develop models, articulate questions, or engage in arguments, they should have opportunities to think about what they have done and why. They should be given opportunities to compare their own approaches to those of other students or professional scientists. Through this kind of reflection they can come to understand the importance of each practice and develop a nuanced appreciation of the nature of science."   (The Framework for K-12 Science Education & NGSS, Appendix H p. 7)

"The use of case studies from the history of science provides contexts in which to develop students’ understanding of the nature of science." (NGSS, Appendix H p. 7)

The Nature of Science - A Way of Knowing

NGSS Appendix H: Understanding the Scientific Enterprise - The Nature of Science Matrix

  • Scientific Investigations Use a Variety of Methods
  • Scientific Knowledge is Based on Empirical Evidence
  • Scientific Knowledge is Open to Revision in Light of New Evidence
  • Scientific Models, Laws, Mechanisms, and Theories Explain Natural Phenomena
  • Science is a Way of Knowing
  • Scientific Knowledge assumes an Order and Consistency in Natural Systems
  • Science is a Human Endeavor
  • Science Addresses Questions about the Natural and Material World

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices and Crosscutting Concepts

  • NGSS Science and Engineering Practices:
    • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
    • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
    • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • NGSS Crosscutting Concepts:
    • Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World

Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • MS & HS ESS2.A Earth's Materials and Systems
  • MS & HS ESS3.A Natural Resources
  • MS & HS ESS3.D Global Climate Change
  • MS & HS ESS3.B Natural Hazards
  • MS & HS ESS3.C Human Impacts on Earth Systems
  • MS & HS ETS1.B Developing Possible Solutions

Common Core (College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards)

  • CCR ELA Speaking & Listening Anchor #1: Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively. 
  • CCR ELA Speaking & Listening Anchor #1, SL.8.1: Pose questions that connect the ideas of several speakers and respond to others’ questions and comments with relevant evidence, observations, and ideas. Acknowledge new information expressed by others, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views in light of the evidence presented.
  • CCR ELA Reading Anchor #1, Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
  • CCR ELA Writing Anchor #1, WHST.6-8.1: Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant, accurate data and evidence that demonstrate an understanding of the topic or text, using credible sources.
  • CCR ELA Speaking and Listening Anchor #4, SL.8.4: Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning….
  • CCR ELA-Literacy.Reading.2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
  • CCR ELA-Literacy.Reading.8: Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
  • CCR.Reading.10:  Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.4: Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6-8 texts and topics.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.9: Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic.