Favorite Demonstration: Experiencing the Nature of Science—An Interactive, Beginning-of-Semester Activity by: Ann Cavallo

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Students’ learning about the nature of science (NOS) consists of two related aspects that include their understandings of and ability to apply science processes, and their beliefs about NOS. To help students develop such understandings, the New Society activity gets them talking to each other about science, using the language of science such as observing and hypothesizing, accepting and considering others’ viewpoints and ideas, and acclimating to the inquiry-based scientific processes to be used throughout the course and beyond. The activity is especially effective in courses enrolling primarily nonscience majors.

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Reviews (4)
  • on Thu Jan 17, 2013 11:09 AM

I tried this yesterday and wanted to write a review while it was fresh in my mind. this was done in a nonmajors class of 110 students, with about a 60Female/40Male split. On the second day I asked for 4 (reluctant) volunteers. and relayed instructions exactly as described. It did take about 45 minutes including debriefing. The results were very good, but here is some advice for improvements. 1) Ask the scientists to discuss their ideas out loud, a few times in the large lecture it was tough to hear what they were discussing 2) remind the students in the "society" to not respond other than yes or no, sometimes they laughed at the scientists in such a way that it seemed hurtful. Finally 3) I recommend the instructor take notes too , as my observing students missed some key decision making, and by the end I had forgotten what they were for the debriefing. But i will use this Demonstration again in my non majors class!

Heather Rushforth  (Greensboro, NC)
Heather Rushforth (Greensboro, NC)

  • on Tue Oct 30, 2012 2:58 PM

This article introduces a unique way to approach teaching the NOS. Using an activity called "The New Society" the teacher introduces students to the NOS on the first day of class. Although this article is written for a college level class, I think this activity can be modified for the high school level. This is a great idea and an innovative way to introduce students to the NOS.

Maureen Stover  (Fayetteville, NC)
Maureen Stover (Fayetteville, NC)

  • on Tue Jul 05, 2011 12:32 PM

Even though this article is at written at the college level, it is one that could e used, with modification, at almost any grade. The activity has so many parallels to the nature of science, that it could be referred to all year long as you emphasize and re-emphasize aspects of the nature of science. Fun!

Wendy R  (Pocatello, ID)
Wendy R (Pocatello, ID)

  • on Fri Jun 24, 2011 11:12 AM

In this article, the author describes an activity she uses to get students to really think about the way that science is conducted and how scientific knowledge is created. I like the activity, and I can see how it would really make ME think, so I can understand how it might influence undergraduate students. It is a shame to limit this to undergraduate classes, on the other hand, it would require a sense of maturity on the part of the participants so that the frustration that is generated leads to knowledge and not negative actions. I would also recommend this for honors or academic science classes at the high school level and perhaps, with a little more scaffolding for other high school classes as well. Less mature adolescents might find the experience more humiliating than enlightening if they are not generally successful in school, hence the need for additional scaffolding if one was to use this with those types of students. Still, I think this could be a good way to get across the notions the author states of "scientists are not all knowing, they had to work to develop the knowledge they share and were frequently frustrated in the process" (this is paraphrased but I believe the essence of one of the paragraphs). Excellent concept to share with our students!

Tina Harris  (Fairmount, IN)
Tina Harris (Fairmount, IN)

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