The Nature of Science

Science may be described as the attempt to give good accounts of the patterns in nature. The result of scientific investigation is an understanding of natural processes. Engaging students in inquiry-based instruction is one way of developing conceptual understanding, content knowledge, and scientific skills. Scientific inquiry as a means to understand the natural and human-made worlds requires the application of content knowledge through the use of scientific skills. Students are provided with curricular opportunities to learn about and understand science through participatory activities, particularly laboratory, fieldwork, and design

The Nature of Technology/Engineering

Technology/engineering seeks different ends from those of science. Engineering strives to design and manufacture useful devices or materials, defined as technologies, whose purpose is to increase our efficacy in the world and/or our enjoyment of it. Can openers are technology, as are microwave ovens, microchips, steam engines, camcorders, safety glass, zippers, polyurethane, the Golden Gate Bridge, much of Disney World, and the “Big Dig” in Boston. Each of these, with innumerable other examples, emerges from the scientific knowledge, imagination, persistence, talent, and ingenuity of practitioners of technology/engineering. Each technology represents a designed solution, usually created in response to a specific practical problem, that applies scientific principles. As with science, direct engagement with the problem is central to defining and solving it.

The Relationship Between Science and Technology/Engineering

In spite of their different goals, science and technology have become closely, even inextricably, related in many fields. The instruments that scientists use, such as the microscope, balance, and chronometer, result from the application of technology/engineering. Scientific ideas, such as the laws of motion, the relationship between electricity and magnetism, the atomic model, and the model of DNA, have contributed to achievements in technology and engineering, such as
improvement of the internal combustion engine, power transformers, nuclear power, and human gene therapy. The boundaries between science and technology/engineering blur together to extend knowledge.

Scientific Inquiry Skills Standards (from NAS Framework for K-12 Science Education: Scientific & Engineering Practices)
  1. Ask questions
  2. Develop and use models
  3. Design and conduct scientific investigations
  4. Analyze and interpret data
  5. Use mathematics and computational thinking
  6. Construct explanations and design solutions
  7. Engage in arguments from evidence
  8. Obtain, evaluate and communicate information from a variety of sources
Seven Crosscutting Concepts of the Framework (from NAS Framework for K-12 Science Education: Scientific & Engineering Practices)
  1. Patterns: Observed patterns of forms and events guide organization and classification, and the prompt questions about relationships and the factors that influence them.
  2. Cause & Effect: Mechanism and explanation. Events have causes, sometimes simple, sometimes multifaceted. A major activity of science is investigating and explaining causal relationships and the mechanisms by which they are mediated. Such mechanisms can then be tested across given contexts and used to predict and explain events in new contexts.
  3. Scale, Proportion, & Quantity: In considering phenomena, it is critical to recognize what is relevant at different measures of size, time and energy and to recognize how changes in scale, proportion, or quantity affect a system’s structure or performance.
  4. Systems & System Models: Defining the system under study- specifying its boundaries and making explicit a model of that system- provides tools for understanding and testing ideas that are applicable throughout science and engineering.
  5. Energy & Matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation. Tracking fluxes of energy and matter into, out of and within systems helps one understand the systems’ possibilities and limitations.
  6. Structure & Function: The way in which an object or living thing is shaped and its substructure determine many of its properties and functions.
  7. Stability & Change: For natural and built systems alike, conditions of stability and determinants of rates of change or evolution of a system are critical elements of study.