Parent Notes for Unit 2: The Methods of Science and Weather Study.
If you have not already done so, please read the Parent Guide for Natural Science. This page contains information to help you help your student with the material and methods of this course.
Students should complete both the web lecture and text book readings from the Homework assignment if at all possible before we meet for the first time in Chat.
Below are notes on the main points of each assignment.
- History Web Lecture: What is the scientific method?
We often think of science as proceeding by strict experimentation, but there are many natural phenomena that we cannot observe in a laboratory setting. This lecture identifies some other ways that science uses observation to arrive at descriptions of natural phenomena that can be used to predict behavior. It also raises questions about the limits of experimental methods, and our ability to draw conclusions from them.
Please discuss with your student the study questions at the end of the web lecture.
- Science Web Lecture: While this assignment covers a lot of phenomena, most students have encountered weather terminology on a more or less daily basis in weather reports. Encourage your students to identify those weather terms that he or she doesn't know, and concentrate on studying new concepts or details. Our Web Lecture will try to tie these details together by relating them to the central idea that hot air rises and cold air falls, and that this principle lies behind most of the weather phenomena that we experience.
We take up weather as our first science topic for several reasons:
- All individuals and all societies during all time periods have experienced weather, and have had to classify and organize their information about weather phenomena.
- Predicting weather has practical applications which drive our society to study it carefully.
- Observing weather phenomena lies outside the classical methodology of science based on repeatable lab experiments under controlled conditions (for both practical and ethical reasons: even if we could, should we create a tornado just to study its destructive power?), and forces students to reconsider the goals and methods of scientific observation.
In addition to directing students to think about whether "hot air rises" will account for all weather phenomena, the science study questions ask students to consider some of the effects of the structure of the atmosphere, particularly carbon dioxide (which blocks heat from leaving the surface) and the ozone layer (which blocks UV light from reaching the surface) on earth's living organisms.
- Chat Preparation Essay: The chat preparation essay this time is partly to get students to think about how to design an experiment to test an hypothesis, and partly how to think through a logical argument and express it. This assignment will be posted for discussion, and I will evaluate it as a written essay assignment, for form, grammar, spelling as well as for organization, clarity, and examples offered in support of the student's main argument.
- The Mastery Exercise: The mastery exercise is located in the Moodle. It is open book, has no time limit, and can be taken repeatedly until the student achieves a passing score (85%). Focus this time is on terminology and concepts.
- Discussion: Our discussion will concentrate on refining our understanding of scientific methods and applying them to weather. Students who have questions on any of the reading material, or on any homework questions they could not answer, should be ready to ask those questions during the chat session.
- Quiz:There is a short quiz on this unit covering basic weather terms and concepts. Note that students cannot take quizzes until they have completed the Mastery Exercise successfully.
- Lab: This week's lab requires at least an entire week's observations, made daily. While none of the observations is time-consuming, it may be necessary to plan a regular period when the observations are made. A scheduled time allows students to take observations under nearly identical conditions to enable comparison of results, and to determine whether there are repeating patterns on a daily basis.
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