‘Science Is Real’ — An Early-Year Argument-Based Activity on the Scientific Method
A lot of science classes, regardless of the grade level or the specific subject area, spend time early in the school year refreshing students’ understanding of the scientific method and grounding the academic culture they are establishing in the tenets of scientific rationality and argument. Particularly in the period we are living in now – when Time Magazine can place Is Truth Dead? on its cover, and the science of climate change can become politicized almost to the point of impotence – science education is performing the crucial role of reaffirming the fundamental process by which our society determines the validity of claims to truth: on the basis of observable, replicable, empirical evidence. A mini-unit on the scientific method early in the school year helps position all of the science instruction that will follow. This short argument-based activity, called “Science Is Real,” after the song at its center, can be an important part of such a mini-unit.
This activity can be conducted in a single 50-minute class period, or expanded with some additional discussion, reflection, and writing into two class periods.
The activity should begin with the teacher writing out the term scientific method on the board. Ask students to write two terms in their notebooks or on a loose sheet of paper that they closely associate with the phrase scientific method. Next to each of their two terms, students should write a single sentence that justifies or explains the connection between their term and the scientific method.
Call on five or six students to share their two terms, along with their justification of the connection. If there is a term that either does not connect, or a flawed justification, ask if there other students who might offer a critique or response. Through this process create a word cloud around the phrase scientific method and ask student to keep this word cloud in their notes.
Screen the video for the song “Science Is Real,” by the indie rock band They Might Be Giants. After the video, ask students to draw connections between the video and their word cloud. Distribute the lyrics to the song and then screen the video a second time, asking the students to read along to the lyrics as the song is played.
Pair students together. Then distribute the “Science Is Real” argument-based discussion questions. In their pairs, students should discuss and then in writing respond to each of these questions. Then pairs should be matched with other pairs and share and discuss their responses, noting differences.
Conclude the activity by sharing out responses to the questions from the quads (pairs of pairs), with an emphasis on where responses differed, either within the quad or among quads in the class. Collect the responses for formative assessment. Optionally, you could ask students to reflect on what they learned in the lesson’s activity about the scientific method that they didn’t already know, and what they knowledge they had most strongly reaffirmed.