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1.2: Lesson 1.1: The Nature of Science

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Key Concepts

  • Scientific method
  • Scientific models
  • Importance of community in science
  • Safety in science

Lesson Objectives

  • Identify the goal of science.
  • Explain the importance of asking questions.
  • Describe how scientists study the natural world.
  • Explain how and why scientists collect data.
  • Describe the three major types of scientific models.
  • Explain how a scientific theory differs from a hypothesis.
  • Describe appropriate safety precautions inside and outside the science laboratory.

Lesson Vocabulary

  • conceptual model: abstract, mental representation of an object or system
  • control: factor that is kept constant in an experiment so that only the independent variable changes
  • dependent variable: variable in an experiment that is measured to see how it is affected by changes in the independent variable
  • hypothesis: testable, plausible explanation for a scientific question or problem
  • independent variable: variable in an experiment that is changed by the researcher in order to test its effect on the dependent variable
  • mathematical model: set of equations that represents a real-world process or simulates a natural system
  • model: representation of an object or system that is simpler than reality and easier to manipulate and study
  • physical model: physical representation of an object or system
  • scientific method: series of steps for investigating a testable question using empirical information gathered from experimentation, experience, or observation
  • theory: broad scientific explanation that has been repeatedly tested and supported by evidence

Teaching Strategies

Introducing the Lesson

Use a projector to show the class the world map of volcanoes at the following URL: http://www.cccarto.com/volcanofinder.html.

Question: What do you observe about volcanoes from this map?
Sample answer: Volcanoes are concentrated in certain locations. For example, a ring of many volcanoes surrounds the Pacific Ocean.
Question: What questions do the observations raise?
Sample answer: Why do so many volcanoes occur around the Pacific? What causes volcanoes?

Point out that most scientific investigations begin with questions that arise because of observations such as these. Tell students they will learn more about scientific investigations when they read this lesson.


Lead the class in a discussion of the importance of falsification as a criterion of a scientific hypothesis. Discuss how a falsifiable, or testable, hypothesis can be proven wrong if it is indeed wrong because observations or measurements can be made to test it. Ask students to brainstorm hypotheses that can and cannot be falsified.

Building Science Skills

Use the worksheets in the PDF document below to give students practice identifying dependent and independent variables and controls in scientific experiments. Students may work alone or in groups on the activity, which could also be assigned as homework.


Differentiated Instruction

Ask students to think about how a hypothesis might gain the status of a theory. Then pair any ELL students or less proficient readers with other students, and have them work together to discuss and answer the question.


Have students who need extra challenges collaborate on making a science safety video to share with the rest of the class. Make sure the students include safety rules that you know will be especially important for Earth science class.

Science Inquiry

The scientific method is applied to myths and legends in the Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters show. Video clips from the show are available at the first URL below. Have students use the PDF worksheet at the second URL below to analyze how the scientific method was applied in each video. After students view one or more videos, challenge small groups of students to develop their own investigation to test one of the myths or legends from the show.

https://www.google.com/search?q=mythbusters%20videos&hl=en&source=ig&tbm=vid (video clips from show)

http://sciencespot.net/Media/mythbusterswkst.pdf (student worksheet)

Common Misconceptions

Several terms introduced in this lesson are often confused, leading to serious misconceptions about the nature of science and scientific investigation. The terms include hypothesis, scientific law, and theory. Have students go the following URL and under “Vocabulary Mix-ups,” click on each of the terms to read about them in detail.


Reinforce and Review

Lesson Worksheets

Copy and distribute the lesson worksheets in the CK-12 Earth Science for High School Workbook. Ask students to complete the worksheets alone or in pairs to reinforce lesson content.

Lesson Review Questions

Have students answer the Review Questions listed at the end of the lesson in the FlexBook® student edition.

Lesson Quiz

Check students’ mastery of the lesson with Lesson 1.1 Quiz in CK-12 Earth Science For High School Quizzes and Tests.

Points to Consider

What types of models have you had experience with? What did you learn from them?

What situations are both necessary and dangerous for scientists to study? What precautions do you think they should use when they study them?

How does the scientific meaning of the word theory differ from the common usage? Can you find an example in the media of where the word was used incorrectly in a scientific story? The misuse of the word theory is rampant in the media and in daily life.

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