Identifying science ideas
Science ideas are important in science education because they form the foundation of scientific understanding. By learning key concepts and theories, students gain a deeper appreciation of how the natural world works, and are better equipped to ask questions, make predictions, and draw evidence-based conclusions. Additionally, a strong foundation in science ideas helps students understand the relevance of science in their daily lives. Science ideas build the foundation for scientific explanations of phenomena our students will encounter throughout their lives. The science ideas in our curriculum have been developed over centuries to help us make sense of the world.
For example, the idea 'carrying capacity' is not "real" in the sense that I can point to it or put it in your hand. It's just an idea that helps us understand what we're seeing in ecosystems. Carrying capacity helps us make sense of the vast amount of details and uncertainly we see in ecosystems by identifying and naming certain patterns we see. Understanding carrying capacity is important in everyday life because it provides a basic principle for how human activities and populations can impact the environment and its resources. Carrying capacity refers to the maximum number of individuals, or level of resource use, that an ecosystem can sustain over time without degrading its ability to support life and thrive. By understanding carrying capacity, individuals can make informed decisions about resource use and conservation that help to maintain the health and viability of ecosystems and ensure that they can continue to provide essential resources and services in the future, while also beginning to develop care and responsibility for the more-than-human and the relations therein. For example, understanding carrying capacity can inform decisions about urban development, agriculture, water usage, and other human activities that impact the environment.
Science ideas are more than the vocabulary terms found at the start of a chapter (although they can be a great place to start!). We have found the best way to identify the important science ideas at play in a unit is to begin by writing an example scientific explanation (like in Part C of the template).
From this example explanation, we can identify a number of important science ideas for this 8th grade plate tectonics unit:
Science Idea A: The earth's crust is broken up into plates.
Science Idea B: Plates can meet in multiple ways including at divergent, convergent, or transform boundaries.
Science Idea C: Where plates diverge, magma is released and volcanic structures form.
Science Idea D: Where plates converge, subduction occurs which cause earthquakes and volcanoes.
Science Idea E: Convection currents cause the movement of the plates.
With the important science ideas identified, we can use them to begin to structure the MBI unit in a way that introduces the science ideas they will need to construct a scientific explanation of the phenomenon.