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This course satisfies the Natural Science requirement in the core.
Students will use class time to explore physical phenomena, develop questions from the exploration, organize experimentation, collect data, present results, and make sense of the overall endeavor. Only common phenomena that are easily accessible with readily available instruments and materials will be investigated. Both non-numerical and numerical investigations will be done with emphasis on numerical investigations, but only arithmetic and basic graphing will be required. Basic physical science content will be infused throughout the course. Assignments about teaching and learning science will also be required.
This class focuses on the process of investigation in science by having students actually participate in, identify, and practice the process of investigating common scientific phenomena. The course is not so much content driven, but focuses on the way that we engage with and investigate the world around us. It is more concerned with how we learn and not so much on actual science content knowledge.
Sometimes students will be given some materials and asked to explore and figure out what the variables might be. After identifying their own question they will be expected to come up with and perform an experiment that could answer their question. It may seem that the students are left on their own, but that is how we come to know the work of a scientist. There will be a broad investigation "structure" that we will call the inquiry learning cycle as a guide, but the details of what to do during each investigation will be generated by the students.
Doing these activities provides practice with the process that scientists go through and solidifies the structure of the inquiry learning cycle. The inquiry learning cycle, however, is about the process of figuring something out and not about learning or coming to know science content by following a logical path.
The content of this course, then, is the process of learning science. Obtaining and working with data is an important part of this process, so we will also spend a lot of time thinking about data and the role of data in learning. If you are not comfortable with the idea of the course content being the process of learning and that students are expected to develop their own investigations or if you are only interested in learning science content, you should not take this course.
This course has been specifically developed as a core course for all college students, but those preparing to teach K-8 will be particularly interested in the course. Students preparing to teach K-8 should either take this course or PHY101 (Introduction to Physical Science) to prepare for teaching the physical science and science process grade level expectation components of the New Hampshire Education Standards.
Attendance is mandatory for this class and penalties will be given for missing class. If you can't commit to being at every class for the whole semester, don't sign up for the class!
There will not be "lectures" in this class. The class time will be spent doing investigations in small groups. Except for the first couple of days, there will not be scheduled "lectures" in this class so all class meetings will be completely "hands-on" with some discussion, but mostly it will be real investigations! If you aren't comfortable with this, you should consider taking a different class where that isn't the case.
Since the class meetings will be completely filled with experimentation, students are expected to be in class every day and to fully participate in the class activities. This will require collaboration with group members and being willing to fulfill tasks, even when they may seem silly or routine. Investigations require repetitive trials of the same experiment and you must be willing to take the time to do a thorough job. During our time together we need to be focused on science and fully participate.
Some of the investigations that we do will be on topics that you have seen before. In the list of topics you will find things like density, pendulums, balls rolling down ramps, conservation of energy, etc. If you think you know everything about these topics, this is not the course for you. In this course you will need to work hard at thinking about the process of investigation and be willing to enthusiastically engage in the investigations. If you aren't willing to do this, you should consider taking a different course.
The class is scheduled to meet three times a week for this 4-credit, integrated laboratory course. Students will be required to meet in person during the scheduled times for laboratory activities. In addition to the scheduled class times, most science courses require 2-3 hours outside of class for every hour in class. That would be between 12 and 16 hours per week for this course. On average it is expected that you will spend at least 10 hours per week on this course. There will be some extra demand on your time, so you should plan your schedule this semester accordingly.
The course will have five components, each contributing toward the final grade as indicated below.
- In-class activities, 20%: Undertaking investigations that allow practice of the science inquiry learning cycle in small groups, constructing posters that describe the investigation, and participating in whole class collaborative assessment conferences.
- Writing reports on the investigations, 25%.
- General homework, 15%: Online assignments emphasizing the inquiry learning cycle to help students become acquainted with issues related to the teaching and learning of science.
- Science content homework, 25%: Working through online assignments to enhance science content knowledge.
- Engaging in a final project to develop and carry out a new investigation that includes all of the components of our inquiry learning cycle, 15%.
This course doesn't require a paper textbook, but there will be content online that has been developed for this course. You will need access to a computer with a resolution of at least 1024x768 that can get to the internet. An up-to-date version of either Firefox or Internet Explorer is also required.