Is ignorance bliss? – A Lesson on Scientific Thinking

Scientific Thinking Performance Task (click for full document, 30 pages…)

This lesson could be adapted for most any science class. Because the history leading up to the quantum mechanical model is no longer part of the NC curriculum, I’ve included it here to demonstrate the process of science. This lesson was used during the first few days of school, before students had any real knowledge of nuclear chemistry.

Essential Question: What are the moral and/or ethical implications of knowledge?

Task Rationale: This performance task serves to re-introduce students to the scientific method as well as to dispel the misconception that it is a linear, stepwise process. Students are asked to determine how knowledge is gained and how we decide what to do with that knowledge. The goals of this assignment are to: 1) understand that knowledge must be acquired through one’s own personal critique and evaluation, 2) allow students to see that scientific advancement is anything but a linear process, and 3) have students evaluate the benefits vs. harmful applications of acquired knowledge and how they would affect society.

Overview: Students will first determine how they know what they know and what led them to acquiring their current knowledge. The first part of the process includes an investigation into the scientific method and the development of current atomic theory. The second part requires students to analyze materials demonstrating the pros and cons of nuclear chemistry including nuclear power, nuclear warfare, and nuclear medicine for bias, reliability, and information. Students will then choose one of the scientists that developed atomic theory and write a postmortem, argumentative blog post (or essay) taking a stance on whether the scientist would approve of the advances in nuclear chemistry that have resulted from their contributions to atomic theory.

Included in this lesson: student handouts, teacher and student online resources, grading rubrics, alignment standards (for chemistry and American history, and Common Core reading and writing)

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