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Online Lessons for Teachers: Learning Evolution


What Is the Nature of Science?

View LESSON 1 Student Page

Activity 1: A Survey about Science

Activity 2: What Killed the Dinosaurs?

Activity 2: Teacher Notes

Activity 3: Ancient Farmers of the Amazon

Activity 3: Teacher Notes

Materials You'll Need:
•  Science Survey form (pdf)

Activity 1 Teacher Notes: A Survey about Science

This is a survey students will conduct about the nature of science, laws, theories, hypotheses, scientists, and evolution. They will first take the survey themselves and then, after an in-depth classroom discussion, conduct the survey in their community.

Learning Goals


To have students explore the public's perception of science and the scientific process


To foster an awareness that the public often has a very different perception of these terms and concepts than the scientific community


To have students explore and discuss the implications of scientific literacy


Have your students complete the Science Survey form (pdf).


Then, discuss the concepts covered in the survey (scientific process, theory, fact, law, and evolution). In your discussion of the concepts and survey, underscore that scientific opinion is not shaped by the opinions of people on the street. Science is not a democracy of ideas, but a competitive arena for seeking solutions to challenging problems. It is driven by skepticism, empiricism, and logic.


Discuss with your class what it means to "like" science. Discuss the difference between thinking of science as a subject in school and thinking of it as a way to understand the world.


Ask students what they think the difference is between astronomy and astrology. Explore how this is related to the nature of science.


Have students conduct the survey with at least five people. You may want to assign the age or status (parents, teachers, friends) of those to be surveyed to ensure a broad sample.


Have students tally the results for the following questions on the board:


How many survey participants were students? How many were adults? How many work in a science-related field?


How many people gave an accurate definition of science?


How many said they liked science?


How many had misconceptions about what a theory, a fact, or a law is (as used in the scientific community)?


How many people gave a scientific definition of evolution?


How many people knew the difference between astronomy and astrology?

Find the total number of people surveyed. Then calculate percentages for each question above. If you teach more than one class, you can compare data between classes. You may want to discuss how factors like sample size or bias in selection of participants affect the statistical significance of your results. Students might want to examine how responses varied by age group or gender or look for correlations between questions by a single respondent. For instance, were those who gave accurate definitions for the term science more likely to say they like it?


Ask students to contribute some of the definitions they collected for the term evolution. As a class, revise five of the definitions so they are correct.


Ask students to correct the definitions that their survey participants gave for the terms science, evolution, theory, fact, and law. This exercise will help them develop critical thinking skills. Not only will they be able to define the terms, but they will be able to recognize when they are used incorrectly. After this exercise, discuss why evolution is called a theory.


Wrap up this activity by asking students to explore ways to address misunderstandings they uncovered while conducting the survey. Ask students to consider the importance of scientific literacy in the 21st century, a time when science influences every aspect of our lives from shopping at the grocery store (genetically modified food), to choosing a car (environmental implications), to voting on political issues (ecology, health, conservation, and technology).

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