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National Science Standards, History and Nature of Science

This post relates to the History and Nature of Science content standards for grades 5 through 8 of the 2005 National Science Education Standards from the National Research Council. We’ll look at how Real Science-4-Kids (RS4K) and Kogs-4-Kids (K4K) texts align with these.

National Science Education Standards; HISTORY & NATURE OF SCIENCE

Science as a Human Endeavor

  • Women and men of various social and ethnic backgrounds – and with diverse interests, talents, qualities, and motivations – engage in the activities of science, engineering, and related fields such as the health professions. Some scientists work in teams, and some work alone, but all communicate extensively with others.
  • Science requires different abilities, depending on such factors as the field of study and type of inquiry. Science is very much a human endeavor, and the work of science relies on basic human qualities, such as reasoning, insight, energy, skill, and creativity – as well as on the scientific habits of mind, such as intellectual honesty, tolerance of ambiguity, skepticism, and openness to new ideas.

Nature of Science

  1. Scientists formulate and test their explanations of nature using observation, experiments, and theoretical and mathematical models. Although all scientific ideas are tentative and subject to change and improvement in principle, for most major ideas in science, there is much experimental and observational confirmation. Those ideas are not likely to change greatly in the future. Scientists do and have changed their ideas about nature when they encounter new experimental evidence that does not match their existing explanations.
  2. In areas where active research is being pursued and in which there is not a great deal of experimental or observational evidence and understanding, it is normal for scientists to differ with one another about the interpretation of the evidence or theory being considered. Different scientists might publish conflicting experimental results or might draw different conclusions from the same data. Ideally, scientists acknowledge such conflict and work towards finding evidence that will resolve their disagreement.
  3. It is part of scientific inquiry to evaluate the results of scientific investigations, experiments, observations, theoretical models, and the explanations proposed by other scientists. Evaluation includes reviewing the experimental procedures, examining the evidence, identifying faulty reasoning, pointing out statements that go beyond the evidence, and suggesting alternative explanations for the same observations. Although scientists may disagree about explanations of phenomena, about interpretations of data, or about the value of rival theories, they do agree that questioning, response to criticism, and open communication are integral to the process of science. As scientific knowledge evolves, major disagreements are eventually resolved through such interactions between scientists.

History of Science

  1. Many individuals have contributed to the traditions of science. Studying some of these individuals provides further understanding of scientific inquiry, science as a human endeavor, the nature of science, and the relationships between science and society.
  2. In historical perspective, science has been practiced by different individuals in different cultures. In looking at the history or many peoples, one finds that scientists and engineers of high achievement are considered to be among the most valued contributors to their culture.
  3. Tracing the history of science can show how difficult it was for scientific innovators to break through the accepted ideas of their time to reach the conclusions that we currently take for granted.

Real Science-4-Kids meets this standard in the following ways:

The National Standards for “history and nature of science” relate in many ways to the entire content of RS4K and Kogs. Because each level of the RS4K curricula covers subjects in the same order (with more depth added for higher levels), the following alignments are generally true for Pre-Level I and Level II as well as Level I. However, specific examples are taken from Level I texts and workbooks since that age range most closely matches that of the National Standards presented here. Kogs workbooks expand on the subject in the context of the book’s category (philosophy, critical thinking, history, etc.). Because information is built upon with each chapter, many types of knowledge in the standards show up in virtually all chapters. However, the key chapters for each section are shown below.

Science as a Human Endeavor

Inventors and scientists from numerous countries – including Sweden, Russia, Italy, Iran, Greece and the U.S. – are identified specifically throughout both Gravitas’ textbooks and Kogs workbooks. Examples of how discoveries and inventions have benefited societies, and often the inventors personally, are also plentiful. In the Chemistry Connects to History Kog in particular, readers see how early scientists – who often were not known as such but rather had jobs ranging from being king to writing plays to being a lawyer – built upon knowledge and theories to invent the discipline we now call science and further our body of knowlege. Explanations of how various scientists approached a question or problem demonstrate the qualities of good scientists.

Nature of Science

  1. In the Chemistry Connects to History Kog students take an entertaining look back at how early scientific theories evolved as experimentation and observation became more sophisticated and accurate. Readers learn that even in ancient times, people came up with the concept that there were a few elements that were the basis for all things. From Aristotle’s idea of air, water, fire and earth to Democritus’ theory of tiny particles he called “atoms,” students see the progression and refinement of science. Examples of important discoveries in a timeline illustrate in many cases just how scientists conducted experiments to prove their hypotheses.
  2. Chapter 4 in the Chemistry Connects to Philosophy Kog (How Do We Know What We Know?) deals very specifically with how science has developed by working through differing ideas. The chapter explains terms such as paradigm shifts in science and gives examples such as the story of Svante Arrhenius, who received a low grade on his dissertation about ions from the graduating committee. They did not agree with many of his conclusions. However, he was later proven correct and even received a Nobel Prize for his work.
  3. The scientific method is covered in various places in the RS4K and Kogs curricula, such as in the introduction for Physics Level I and in the Chemistry Connects to Philosophy Kog, where the Muslim philosopher Ibn al-Haytham is credited with the development and Roger Bacon with the refinement of the process. Bacon added “verification” to the cycle of observation, hypothesis and experimentation. Throughout the Laboratory Workbooks for each discipline, the importance of the method is stressed and illustrated. Helping students embrace a process to weed out statements not supported by evidence, RS4K builds critical thinking skills with numerous lessons and questions. An outstanding source for learning these skills very specifically is the Chemistry Connects to Critical Thinking Kog. The entire 10 chapters of this workbook are devoted to tools for objectively gathering facts and then using a “critical thinking lens” to make valid conclusions or ask further questions.

History of Science

A. through C. The Chemistry Connects to History Kog was created to specifically address the importance of students understanding the history of science and why the challenges faced along the way are important even today. Important figures and their ideas are often brought to life with brief and colorful explanations of their culture. That workbook even begins with an explanation of what “history” means and the tools used to understand and interpret artifacts. Students begin the workbook by creating their own short history or a history for a family member. Blank timelines that the student completes are used throughout. The Chemistry Connects to Philosophy Kog makes use of plays in which the students portray historical figures in science that are having discussions. The Kogs are more detailed extensions of the philosophy woven throughout the Student Texts, which is that students learn best if scientific concepts and facts are put into context. So several chapters in each subject text include information on the scientists who made certain discoveries and the diversity of their backgrounds and culture.


Americans are knowledgeable about basic scientific facts that affect their health and daily lives, but they are less able to answer questions about more complex science topics, according to a PEW study released in early July. These results support Gravitas’ long-standing philosophy that we learn and retain science information better when it is put into context and associated with our real-world experience.

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press in collaboration with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society, conducted a general survey of opinions about the state of science and its impact on society. They also asked science knowledge questions in a separate survey of 1,005 adult members of the general public. Quoting from that section of the published report:

Fully 91% know that aspirin is an over-the-counter drug recommended to prevent heart attacks and 82% know that GPS technology relies on satellites. And topics covered in major news stories also are widely understood; 77% correctly identify earthquakes as a cause of tsunamis and 65% can identify CO2 as a gas linked to rising temperatures.

Slightly more than half (54%) knows that antibiotics do not kill viruses along with bacteria, and about the same percentage (52%) knows that what distinguishes stem cells from other cells is that they can develop into many different kinds of cells. And some high-school science knowledge is elusive for most Americans: Fewer than half (46%) know that electrons are smaller than atoms.

There were several other interesting results in the survey of opinions about the state of science and its impact on society, as the report presented points of agreement and disagreement between scientists who were surveyed and the general public.

For example, majorities of both groups point to advances in medicine and life sciences as important achievements of science. About half of the public (52%) cites medicine – including health care, vaccines, and medical cures – when asked to describe ways that science has positively affected society; by comparison, just 7% mention communications and computer technology. Similarly, most scientists (55%) mention a biomedical or health finding when asked about the nation’s greatest scientific achievement of the last 20 years.

The published report (Public Praises Science) also reveals percentages of opinions of the public versus scientists on topics such as natural evolution, belief in climate change from human activity, the relative standing of U.S. science achievements, and more.

Read or download the report at: http://people-press.org/report/528/


This post relates to the science in personal and social perspectives standards for grades 5 through 8 of the 2005 National Science Education Standards from the National Research Council. We’ll look at how Real Science-4-Kids (RS4K) and Kogs-4-Kids (K4K) texts align with these.

National Science Education Standards

PERSONAL HEALTH:

A.    Regular exercise is important to the maintenance and improvement of health. The benefits of physical fitness include maintaining healthy weight, having energy and strength for routine activities, good muscle tone, bone strength, strong heart/lung systems, and improved mental health. Personal exercise, especially developing cardiovascular endurance, is the foundation of physical fitness.

B.    The potential for accidents and the existence of hazards imposes the need for injury prevention. Safe living involves the development and use of safety precautions and the recognition of risk in personal decisions. Injury prevention has personal and social dimensions.

C.    The use of tobacco increases the risk of illness. Students should understand the influence of short-tem social and psychological factors that lead to tobacco use, and the possible long-term detrimental effects of smoking and chewing tobacco.

D.    Alcohol and other drugs are often abused substances. Such drugs change how the body functions and can lead to addiction.

E.    Food provides energy and nutrients for growth and development. Nutrition requirements vary with body weight, age, sex, activity, and body functioning.

F.    Sex drive is a natural human function that requires understanding. Sex is also a prominent means of transmitting diseases. The diseases can be prevented through a variety of precautions.

G.    Natural environments may contain substances (for example, radon and lead) that are harmful to human beings. Maintaining environmental health involves establishing or monitoring quality standards related to use of soil, water, and air.

POPULATIONS, RESOURCES, AND ENVIRONMENTS 

A.    When an area becomes overpopulated, the environment will become degraded due to the increased use of resources.

B.    Causes of environmental degradation and resource depletion vary from region to region and from country to country.

NATURAL HAZARDS

A.    Internal and external processes of the earth system cause natural hazards, events that change or destroy human and wildlife habitats, damage property, and harm or kill humans. Natural hazards include earthquakes, landslides, wildfires, volcanic eruptions, floods, storms, and even possible impacts of asteroids.

B.    Human activities also can induce hazards through resource acquisition, urban growth, land-use decisions, and waste disposal. Such activities can accelerate many natural changes.

C.    Natural hazards can present personal and societal challenges because misidentifying the change or incorrectly estimating the rate and scale of change may result in either too little attention and significant human costs or too much cost for unneeded preventive measures.

RISKS AND BENEFITS

A.    Risk analysis considers the type of hazard and estimates the number of people that might be exposed and the number likely to suffer the consequences. The results are used to determine the options for reducing or eliminating risks.

B.    Students should understand the risks associated with natural hazards (fires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions), with chemical hazards (pollutants in air, water, soil, and food), with biological hazards (pollen, viruses, bacterial, and parasites), social hazards (occupational safety and transportation), and with personal hazards (smoking, dieting, and drinking).

C.    Individuals can use a systematic approach to thinking critically about risks and benefits. Examples include applying probability estimates to risks and comparing them to estimated personal and social benefits.

D.    Important personal and social decisions are made based on perceptions of benefits and risks.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN SOCIETY

A.    Science influences society through its knowledge and world view. Scientific knowledge and the procedures used by scientists influence the way many individuals in society think about themselves, others, and the environment. The effect of science on society is neither entirely beneficial nor entirely detrimental.

B.    Societal challenges often inspire questions for scientific research, and social priorities often influence research priorities through the availability of funding for research.

C.    Technology influences society through its products and processes. Technology influences the quality of life and the ways people act and interact. Technological changes are often accompanied by social, political, and economic changes that can be beneficial or detrimental to individuals and to society. Social needs, attitudes, and values influence the direction of technological development.

D.    Science and technology have advanced through contributions of many different people, in different cultures, at different times in history. Science and technology have contributed enormously to economic growth and productivity among societies and groups within societies.

E.    Scientists and engineers work in many different settings, including colleges and universities, businesses and industries, specific research institutes, and government agencies.

F.    Scientists and engineers have ethical codes requiring that human subjects involved with research be fully informed about risks and benefits associated with the research before the individuals choose to participate. This ethic extends to potential risks to communities and property. In short, prior knowledge and consent are required for research involving human subjects or potential damage to property.

G.    Science cannot answer all questions and technology cannot solve all human problems or meet all human needs. Students should understand the difference between scientific and other questions. They should appreciate what science and technology can reasonably contribute to society and what they cannot do. For example, new technologies often will decrease some risks and increase others.

H.    Real Science-4-Kids meets this standard in the following ways:

Because each level of the RS4K curricula covers subjects in the same order (with more depth added for higher levels), the following alignments are generally true for Pre-Level I and Level II as well as Level I. However, specific examples are taken from Level I RS4K texts and Kogs-4-Kids™ workbooks since that age range most closely matches that of the National Standards presented here. Kogs workbooks match the subject matter of each chapter but expand that subject in the context of the book’s category (philosophy, critical thinking, history, etc.). Because information is built upon with each chapter, many types of knowledge in the standards show up in virtually all chapters. However, the key chapters for each section are shown below.

Personal Health

A. through D.:  Human anatomy and human fitness are not specifically covered in the textbooks as of July 2009, but subjects not covered by current books may be addressed in upcoming curricula.

E.: Chapter 8 (Energy Molecules) in Chemistry Level I goes into detail about why humans need to eat and how our bodies obtain fuel to run properly. Specific nutritional requirements are not addressed in the RS4K texts available as of July 2009.

F. Human anatomy and sexual function are not specifically covered in the textbooks as of July 2009, but subjects not covered by current books may be addressed in upcoming curricula.

G. The first RS4K Earth/Space teaching materials will be available in 2010 and may cover such environmental issues.

Populations, Resources, and Environments

A. and B.:  Chapter 10 (Our Balanced World) in Level I Biology discusses in general terms what an ecosystem is and how our food, air and water cycles work. The upcoming Earth/Space series may further address these issues.

Natural Hazards

A. through C.:  These issues may be addressed to varying degrees in the upcoming Earth/Space series.

Risks and Benefits

A., B. and D.: These issues may be addressed to varying degrees in the upcoming Earth/Space series.

C.:  While probability risk analysis is not covered in existing RS4K materials, the process of using critical thinking tools is covered extensively in the Critical Thinking workbook in the Kogs-4-Kids™ series. Critical thinking tools and skills are also explained and promoted in the Laboratory Workbook experiments associated with RS4K chemistry, biology and physics texts. Chapter 1 (What is Physics?) in the Level I Physics Student Text explains the scientific method in detail.

Science and Technology

A. The entire Kogs-4-Kids series of workbooks are designed to illustrate how science has always affected our world and vice versa, with specifics in history, language, arts, philosophy, technology and critical thinking. Benefits and detrimental side effects are discussed as appropriate to each subject. For example, chapter 8 in the chemistry text explains energy molecules. The related Kogs chapter specifically discusses fats as a source of energy. The story of the development of margarine is used to illustrate several points, including the fact that harmful side effects of hydrogenating oil were discovered years after we began using margarine.

B. and C.: The introduction to Chemistry Connects to Technology specifically addresses the reciprocity of science and technology. An example that is used is how the accidental discovery of glass allowed magnification. That ability to magnify, in turn, allowed the use of telescopes in the study of the cosmos, which developed as a branch of science. The later use of curved mirrors demonstrates the progression of technology for even better scientific discoveries. All of the Kogs further delve into how discoveries alter society and vice versa. The effects of learning that Earth revolves around the Sun, and the trials of having that fact become accepted, is an excellent example discussed in the Kogs workbook for philosophy (chapter 4).

D.: Inventors and scientists from numerous countries – including Sweden, Russia, Italy, Iran, Greece and the U.S. – are identified specifically throughout both Gravitas’ textbooks and Kogs workbooks. Examples of how discoveries and inventions have benefited societies, and often the inventors personally, are throughout.

E.: Though the variety of settings for scientific work is not discussed as a subject in itself, the information is contained in the very wide array of examples of where and how inventions and discoveries have been made.

F.: Human testing is not a subject specifically discussed in existing RS4K materials.

G.: Because validation of results and conclusions is a subject covered repeatedly throughout RS4K and Kogs materials, examples are often given of the difference between scientific knowledge and the interpretation of that knowledge. The Kogs workbook on critical thinking is at the heart of this topic. Likewise, the Kogs workbook on philosophy explains the periods in human history when science and philosophy have been closely connected and when they have not.