Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Science in the Wild

The Nature of Science

Heather Shaffery | Published: January 19th, 2024 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject Science
  • Course Course Biology I, Chemistry, Earth Science, Environmental Science, Physical Science, Physics
  • Time Frame Time Frame 60 minutes
  • Duration More 1-2 periods


In this lesson, students explore a variety of examples of how science is conducted in the world outside of the classroom. Examples come from a variety of Twitter trends where scientists share their mistakes, unexpected mishaps, and use of non-standard equipment in the course of their research. Additionally, students listen to excerpts from a TED Talk discussing how science generates more questions than answers. To conclude the lesson, students reflect on how their understanding of science has changed. This lesson addresses the nature of science itself, as outlined in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), rather than any one content area. It can be used alone or in conjunction with specific science standards in any class.

Essential Question(s)

How do scientists do their work?



Students discuss whether a study about classifying cats as liquids is really science.


Students complete a justified list about what counts as scientific equipment.


Students watch a video about how scientists ask questions and generate ideas.


Students explore examples of mishaps in scientific data collection and discuss the challenges associated with conducting science.


Students complete a reflection over how their understanding of the nature of science has changed.


  • Lesson slides (attached)

  • Science Equipment Justified List handout (attached; cut in half; one per student)

  • Science Equipment Uses handout (attached; one per teacher)

  • Chat Stations handout (attached; one set per lesson; cut apart)

  • Notebook/blank paper

  • Poster paper (optional)

  • Sticky notes (optional)


5 Minute(s)

Go to slide 3 and display the lesson’s essential question. Slide 4 (hidden) includes lesson objectives. You can unhide it if you feel it is necessary to review them with the class.

Go to slide 5 to show the “cats are liquid” memes and ask the students “Is this science?” Ask students to discuss with their Elbow Partners whether this is “really science” or not. After they have a few minutes to discuss among themselves, have students share out their decision and explain their reasoning.

Next, go to slide 6, revealing the headline about the Ig Nobel Prize being awarded for studying whether cats should be classified as liquid or solid. Ask students if any of them have heard of the Ig Nobel Prize. If not, explain the concept to them. Explain to the class that this study that was awarded.

Tell students that they will be learning about ways in which real science is conducted during this lesson.


10 Minute(s)

Show slide 7 and provide students with the half-sheet Science Equipment Justified List handout. Using the Justified List strategy, students should decide which items count as scientific equipment and explain the criteria or rule(s) for their decision. As you circulate through the room, keep an eye out for patterns in what students are selecting. Ask for volunteers to share out their answers and justifications. Depending on the number of items or specific items students are selecting overall, it might be quicker to ask students to share which items they did not select.

After students have had a chance to share out and discuss with one another, tell them that every item on that list has been used in legitimate scientific research. The non-traditional items were found in reviews on Amazon and Twitter (#reviewforscience) where scientists described and rated products based on their use in research. A list of the specific uses is provided in the Science Equipment Uses teacher resource.

Before moving on, ask students to think about and share with the class what this activity has taught them about how scientists do research. As they share, guide them to consider how their thinking has changed or how their new understanding is different from what they thought before.


15 Minute(s)

Ask students to watch excerpts of a TED Talk by Dr. Stuart Firestein titled The Pursuit of Ignorance. In this talk, Dr. Firestein discusses how the nature of science is to produce more questions than answers. Go to slide 8 and play the video for students at the following timestamps:

  • 0:10-1:12

  • 4:05-11:25

The rest of the video is interesting and worthwhile to watch, but its details are not likely to hold student attention and are not necessary to the point being made here.

After the video, have a few volunteers share out what they thought was interesting about the video and whether anything was surprising to them.


25 Minute(s)

Before beginning this activity, print the Chat Stations handout and arrange the seven Chat Stations around the classroom. Go to slide 9 and explain the instructions to students. Divide the class into groups and send each one to a different station. At least one person in each group should have something with which to write. While at the stations, students will read a variety of tweets from scientists detailing mistakes or departures from standard procedures. Give students 2-3 minutes at each station to discuss what the tweets reveal about science and how it is done.

When all the groups have visited each station, have them stay at the last station they visited. Ask a volunteer from each group to share what they learned about science at that specific station. Create a list as a physical or digital Anchor Chart that you can refer back to in future lessons, detailing what the class knows now about the nature of science.


5 Minute(s)

To conclude the lesson, go to slide 10 and ask students to use the I Used to Think… But Now I Know strategy to reflect on the essential question: How do scientists do their work? This can be done in whatever way is most convenient for you. You may want them to write their examples on notebook paper or sticky notes. Ask them to leave their examples at the end of class.

If there is time, ask for the class to share out their reflections. Add any new ideas from their “Now I Know” responses to the anchor chart.