Scientific Observations - High School

Essential Questions

  • How do scientists record their observations?
  • How does the scientific community share their observations?

Unit Sequence

1. Pre Assessment

  1. Reflection – Students are asked a small series of questions that ask them to consider the qualities of a good observation
  2. Feedback – Student’s peers in the class respond to each other’s responses to help each other consider other points of view and aspects of quality observations.
  3. Discussion – The class then establishes a baseline for understanding about the scientific process of making observations.

2. A Tour of Paleontology in Panama

  1. A collaborative Prezi presentation about the work being done by the PCP PIRE project in the Panama Canal.
  2. This presentation outlines the work being done and how it relates to observational skills.

3. Scientific Observations

  1. Presentation – An introduction to careful scientific observations with a video from a scientist in Panama describing his notebook
  2. Activity – A BSCS lab activity that builds student’s ability to make useful, careful scientific observations

4. Field Observations

  1. Presentation – An introduction to careful observations in the field with a video from a scientist in Panama describing their field notebook
  2. Activity – A BSCS lab activity that asks students to make scientific observations of their schoolyard. *Some augmentation would make this activity ideal ie. A table to record data in the field.

5. Scientific Drawings

  1. Introduction – Review the work of the Panamanian scientists and the importance of drawing in their recollections of important facts
  2. Activity – Creating Scientific Drawings
    • This activity outlines the major components of a good scientific drawing and guides students in their construction based off of a detailed rubric.
  3. Activity – Peer Evaluation
    • Students respond to a series of questions that ask students to consider the information they are able to attain from the drawing. Then students use a pre-constructed rubric to evaluate the quality of their peer’s scientific drawing.

6. Recording Observations in the Scientific Community

  1. Presentation – A brief history of the record keeping of museums, the idea of ‘Dark Data’ and the problems it presents. Current solutions to old problems using cloud technology will be presented. iDigBio will be introduced alongside the digitization of specimens for the site.

7. Digitizing Specimens for Museum Collections

  1. Activity – This multiday activity will introduce students the practice of digitizing specimens for their inclusion into cloud-based specimen records like iDigBio. Students will be introduced to the technology required to make quality images and practice on specimens in 2 dimensions (ie. Plant leaves) and 3 dimensions (ie. Fossil bones).

8. Post Assessment

  1. Practical - In a laboratory practical students demonstrate the skills they have developed throughout the unit by making careful observations of a specimen, recreating it in a scientific drawing and then working together in a group to digitize the specimen.

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