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Online Lessons for Teachers: Learning Evolution

LESSON 1: 

What Is the Nature of Science?

Back to LESSON 1

Activity 1: A Survey about Science

Activity 1: Teacher Notes

Activity 2: What Killed the Dinosaurs?

Activity 2: Teacher Notes

Activity 3: Teacher Notes

Materials You'll Need:

• 

Amazon Leafcutter Ants: The First Farmers? (pdf)

• 

Sample Research Proposal (pdf)

Activity 3: Ancient Farmers of the Amazon

When did farming really start? Where were the first farmers located? The answers to these questions might surprise you. In this activity, you will find out about research being conducted on some of the most ancient farmers in the world -- Amazon leafcutter ants. Then you will get to be a researcher yourself. You will watch video segments to make your own virtual field observationsand write your own research proposal. Finally, you will attend a simulated research conference to share your ideas with your peers in a poster session.

Procedure
Part A: Leafcutter Ant Research Model

1. 

Watch "Ancient Farmers of the Amazon," a video segment about the research conducted on rainforest leafcutter ants.

Image of a leafcutter ant.

Ancient Farmers
of the Amazon

View in:
QuickTime | RealPlayer

2. 

Print Amazon Leafcutter Ants: The First Farmers? (pdf) or get it from your teacher. Answer the questions on this worksheet.

3. 

Print the Sample Research Proposal (pdf) or get it from your teacher. Notice that the sample proposal includes the following components:

• 

Introduction

• 

Hypothesis

• 

Predictions

• 

Research procedure

The research proposal presented here is a very short version of what a science researcher might create to get funding to carry out his or her research. As you can see in this example, observation is one of the most important parts of the research process. From the observations made in the ant colonies, the graduate student was able to formulate a series of questions about the ants, their fungal gardens, and the lack of parasites in the colonies themselves.

This is what scientists do. They observe, they ask questions, and then they test their ideas. An important way to test an explanation is to try to remove all explanations other than the one you are testing. If your answer "works," then you accept it -- at least until it can be tested in some other way! If your explanation remains intact after many, many tests, then you can feel confident you are on the right track.

Discuss this proposal with your class.

Part B: Newts or Peacocks Mini-Proposal

1. 

Watch either "Toxic Newts" or "Tale of the Peacock." "Toxic Newts" will take you on a hunt for an incredibly poisonous newt where you will try to figure out why the amphibian has developed such a high level of toxicity. Tale of the Peacock will take you to a peacock farm, where you will try to answer the question of why the male peacock has such a tremendous tail.

Image of a newt.  Image of a peacock.

Toxic Newts
View in:
QuickTime | RealPlayer

Tale of the Peacock
View in:
QuickTime | RealPlayer

• 

View the video segment you selected.

• 

Record your observations. After you have finished viewing, brainstorm a list of questions the video raised.

• 

Pick one of the questions and formulate a hypothesis.

• 

Think about how you would answer this question. Think of more than one possible explanation, and choose the best one. What kind of observations or experiments would you have to do to eliminate the other explanations?

2. 

Write a simple proposal to do research. To do this, you will write a short paper that includes the following parts:

• 

Introduction-- Describe the observations that led to your proposed study. Clearly pose the question raised by those observations.

• 

Hypothesis-- Present your hypothesis and why you selected it. Remember: a hypothesis is different from a simple prediction.

• 

Predictions-- Describe the results expected from your procedure if your hypothesis is right and the results expected if your hypothesis is wrong. These expected results must be different from each other, otherwise the procedure is not a valid, truly discriminating test of the hypothesis.

• 

Research procedure-- Briefly summarize your experimental design: What you will do to either confirm the validity of your hypothesis or refute it, depending on the results. This must include the organisms and materials to be used, and how you would set up and perform the experiment.

Part C: Poster Session

1. 

Scientists publish the results of their work and attend research conferences to share their ideas with their colleagues. Simulate a conference and share your research proposal with fellow researchers.

2. 

First prepare a poster with the following sections:

• 

Title of research

• 

Introduction

• 

Hypothesis

• 

Predicted outcomes

• 

Research procedure

3. 

Then set up your poster in class. Travel around the room to view the posters created by your peers and ask them questions about their research.

 

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