The Story of the Three Little Pigs & the Nature of Science (#2 of 2)

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Objective

Students will be able to describe and apply a mental model in order to correctly understand the nature of theories and supporting data, hypotheses, and laws.

Big Idea

Scientific theories are built from various supporting evidences and, like the Three Little Pigs' construction experience, some are like straw and stick, while the strongest are made of brick!

Learner Goals

Note: I recommend that you first check out this resource in order to get the most out of this lesson!

In high school I took several drafting classes and, for a while, I had hoped to become an architect. With respect to planning instruction and teaching, I feel that I can still live out the detailed approach to building something intricate and complex even though the product is a lesson rather than a certain "built environment".

The lesson-planning document that I uploaded to this section is a comprehensive overview of how I approach lesson planning. This template includes the "Big Three" aspects of the NGSS standards: Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, and Science Practices. Of course, there are many other worthy learning goals, skills, instructional strategies, and assessments that can be integrated into a class session. I don't feel compelled to check every box but, rather, use it as a guide to consider various options and tailor the lesson in light of these.

With regard to this particular lesson students will be able to:

  1. understand that scientific explanations (theories) must be logical, consistent, based on evidence, historical, and current scientific knowledge. (HS-LS-4-1)
  2. understand that scientific theories are open to investigation and, when new information requires, they can be modified.
  3. explain the relationship between data, hypotheses, theories, and laws.

I hope you get some value from my work! Please find the more intricate details of this lesson plan there.

Anticipatory Set ("Hook")

5 minutes

Please click here to return to Day #1...

In broad terms, this lesson series is my attempt to dispel certain misconceptions that frequently swirl around the topic of evolution like smoke circulates the fire from which it emanates. In either case, the true nature of the main issue is likely to be obscured. It is no small or trivial matter therefore to address these challenges.  But if done thoughtfully and executed well a degree of clarity can be achieved before delving into the business of unpacking this topic more fully.

Teaching Challenge: How can I develop my students' ability to apply unifying ideas to make connections across science content? The unifying concept in this lesson is the nature of science (as a process) that links all scientific disciplines together in direct or indirect ways.

Teaching Challenge: How do I support students to develop and use scientific models? In this lesson, I want students to be able to describe a scientific theory as a house whose foundation is the various disciplines and the multitude of experimentation forming the bones (framing) of the house. With these in place, the theory represents the roof structure supported by the lower levels of the structure. The stronger these base and framing layers are, the more solidly the theory rests in place!

Teaching Challenge: How can I increase/improve my students' use of appropriate and precise science vocabulary (theory)?

Reviewing the Metaphors: Recalling from yesterday, to what aspect(s) of science do the following characters refer? Each of the three little pigs (TLP), Big Bad Wolf (BBW), and each house represents an aspect of the nature of science.

I hope to lead students to associate the TLP as scientists, each of whom builds theories from different materials in different ways. The end result is three grades of theory (straw, stick, and brick). The BBW then works to attack and break down each structure. Therefore he represents evidence or the force of reality. At one point (sooner or later), the houses will be tested to the max. They will either go down in rubble or be damaged requiring some maintenance.

Instructional Input/Student Activities

45 minutes

Teaching Challenge: How can I develop my students' ability to apply unifying ideas to make connections across science content? The unifying theme of theories spans across all disciplines. Moreover, the Theory of Natural Selection draws upon geology, biochemistry, paleontology, genetics, etc.

Teaching Challenge: How do I support students to develop and use scientific models? Likening an abstract concept (theory) to the concrete example of houses helps convey that houses, like theories, are built along a spectrum of structural integrity. 

Teaching Challenge: How can I increase/improve my students' use of appropriate and precise science vocabulary? Terms like hypothesis, data, theory, and law are too often misunderstood and misused in both casual and formal contexts. There are some science teachers who cannot properly distinguish among these so this is an opportune topic.

  1. Three Little Pigs Lecture and Discussion (continued from Day #1)

    • Complete Slides #20-31 with special emphasis on the four provided “straw and stick” theories (what each explains, the background to its creation, strengths and weaknesses). Slides #19 (currently held "brick" theories) and #21 (disposed "straw and stick" theories) are points of emphasis since, in my experience, students are not very familiar with these topics.

    • Allow time for students to complete the summary to their learning from the lecture (if time allows).

    • Time permitting, I like to engage students in discussion centering on the misconceptions related to a theory, especially contrasting how it is used in casual settings as little more than a guess versus the more robust usage in science.

Closure: What did we learn? Where do we go from here?

5 minutes

Self-Assessment (Final): Prompt students to evaluate how well they well they understand the Quick Write goal.

A: I am ABLE to do this B: I am BEGINNING to get this C: I still CAN’T do this

Lesson Extension & Follow-Up Activities

None, unless the class work such as the lecture summary needs to be finished.