Nature of Science & Engineering
Interactions Among Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Society

Scientific inquiry requires identification of assumptions, use of critical and logical thinking, and consideration of alternative explanations.

Benchmark: Influence of Traditions

Describe how science and engineering influence and are influenced by local traditions and beliefs.

For example: Sustainable agriculture practices used by many cultures.


Standard in Lay Terms 

MN Standard in lay terms:

Engineering design and scientific inquiry been used in all cultures and by both genders throughout history.

Big Ideas and Essential Understandings 

Big Idea:

Teachers should emphasize the diversity to be found in the scientific community: different kinds of people (in terms of race, sex, age, nationality) pursuing different sciences and working in different places (from isolated field sites to labs to offices). Students can learn that some scientists and engineers use huge instruments (e.g., particle accelerators or telescopes), and others use only notebooks and pencils. And most of all, students can begin to realize that doing science involves more than "scientists," and that many different occupations are part of the scientific enterprise.

By the end of the 5th grade, students should know that

Science is an adventure that people everywhere can take part in, as they have for many centuries. 1C/E1

Clear communication is an essential part of doing science. It enables scientists to inform others about their work, expose their ideas to criticism by other scientists, and stay informed about scientific discoveries around the world. 1C/E2

Doing science involves many different kinds of work and engages men and women of all ages and backgrounds. 1C/E3

Many social practices and products of technology are shaped by scientific knowledge. 1C/E4**

Benchmarks for Science Literacy

Benchmark Cluster 

MN Standard Benchmarks : - Describe how science and engineering influence and are influenced by local traditions and beliefs. 

For example: Sustainable agriculture practices used by many cultures.


William Clark (of Lewis & Clark), October 19, 1804


The Nature of Science > Science and Society

Many social practices and products of technology are shaped by scientific knowledge. 1C/E4

Benchmarks of Science Literacy

By the end of the 5th grade, students should know that

Science is an adventure that people everywhere can take part in, as they have for many centuries. 1C/E1

Clear communication is an essential part of doing science. It enables scientists to inform others about their work, expose their ideas to criticism by other scientists, and stay informed about scientific discoveries around the world. 1C/E2

Doing science involves many different kinds of work and engages men and women of all ages and backgrounds. 1C/E3

Many social practices and products of technology are shaped by scientific knowledge. 1C/E4**

Benchmarks Online

Common Core Standards (i.e. connections with Math, Social Studies or Language Arts Standards):

2010 Minnesota Academic Standards

Reading Informational Text-2

6. Analyze multiple accounts by various cultures of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences in the point of view they represent.


Conduct short research projects that use several sources to build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.

Write informative/ explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.       

Minnesota Academic Standards in History and Social Studies


A. Pre-Contact to 1650

The student will demonstrate knowledge of Minnesota's indigenous peoples.

C. Early Settlement and Statehood 1810-1860

The student will know and understand the factors that led to rapid settlement of Minnesota in the 19th century and the changes the new Minnesotans brought with them.


Student Misconceptions 

The Nature of Science > Scientific World View

Although most students believe that scientific knowledge changes, they typically think changes occur mainly in facts and mostly through the invention of improved technology for observation and measurement.

They do not recognize that changed theories sometimes suggest new observations or reinterpretation of previous observations.


The 5-8 National Science Education Content Standards ask that students learn about the earth's history and the earth in the solar system. Students in this class do this by making direct observations of the heavens and by gathering information from secondary sources. They compare the scientific way of knowing with the belief systems of the ancients that evolved from observations they made of the heavens.

Students in Mr. H's class study the way ancient cultures organized their astronomical observations as they learn about current scientific theories and concepts of modern astronomy. From a wide variety of cultures, Mr. H selects the cultures of several Native American groups and the Yucatan Mayans as a focus for their study. Throughout the unit Mr. H works cooperatively with the teachers in the language arts department.

The students study sites of Native American observatories such as the Medicine Wheel in Wyoming where there is a solar calendar and star location circle, the Sundance Lodge which was built with 28 rafters in the roof of the arbor to mirror the 28 days of the lunar cycle, Woodhenge in Collinsville, Illinois, where people built a solar calendar, and the Mayan Temples on t he Yucatan Peninsula which portrayed the solar and lunar cycles that the Mayans used to order their day-to-day lives.

Students observe pictures of each site and look for similarities. At the same time they make observations of the moon during the day, when they can see it, and at night. They note the moon's 28 day cycle and guess that the Cheyenne site might be an observatory. In addition, students read about how each site was used to make observations. They discover that the observatories were built to track the path of the sun throughout the seasons and at each site there is an observation point for sun alignment.  Students simulate these observation points by measuring the length of the shadows at the beginning and end of the trimester at the same time of the day to discover that the sun's striking the earth is different. They track sunrise and sunsets as well.

Students learn why the ancients believed as they did and how the ancient shamans/priests used their observations to affect the daily lives of the people. They compare how information was used by the ancients to how scientific information is used today. Students begin to understand how the belief systems a person holds affect the way he/she interprets observations.

("Minnesota K-12 Science Framework")


Instructional Notes 

Selected activities:

Shushumay (Snow Snake)

This activity would work well if you were to embed this with a unit on Native Americans through Social Studies.

Snow Snake Curriculum Overview

The purpose of the snow snake curriculum is to foster contextually rich and cultural relevant experiences while at the same time promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) content.

Students will progress from an introduction of snow snakes through to development and use of snow snakes during the culminating festival event. At the core of the snow snake program will be a standards based curriculum that can be followed during the delivery of the snow snake activities within a science or culture class setting. Curricular components touch upon history, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, art, and physical education. Throughout the curriculum, every effort will be made to provide students with the opportunity to share their culture and to contribute to the overall curriculum experience for all students.

This curriculum is the result of a very thoughtful collaboration between the people of the White Earth Indian Reservation and the University of Minnesota. This curriculum was also made possible in part through the National Science Foundation (Information Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers). #0737565. Reach for the Sky: Integrating technology into STEM outcomes for American Indian Youth

Lewis and Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition


Although the primary mission of the Lewis and Clark expedition was to find a water passage to the Pacific Ocean, another goal was to identify new animal species that were seen along the way. President Jefferson asked Lewis and Clark to gather information concerning the habitats, habits, and physical descriptions of these animals.

The purpose of this unit is to provide a framework for understanding how Lewis and Clark and American Indians observed and interacted with animals.

The pedagogy of the unit is science inquiry and problem-based learning. The students will be gathering information from primary sources as well as using technology (World Wide Web) to gather data.

Assessment is ongoing in the form of journal entries, oral presentations, and written reports. As a culminating project, the students will demonstrate an increased awareness of the need to value animals by researching an animal that was seen by Lewis and Clark's expedition and then creating a poster that shows the status of the animal and why this animal is valuable today.

Images of Science (Science NetLinks-AAAS)


To understand the diversity of the scientific enterprise.


The lesson provides several activities that can be done in a series or individually to help students understand the diversity of science, both in terms of the work and the people engaged in the work. Teachers should emphasize the diversity to be found in the scientific community: different kinds of people (in terms of race, sex, age, nationality) pursuing different sciences and working in different places (from isolated field sites to labs to offices).

Instructional suggestions

Science notebooking is a way to teach students how to record data in a clear and precise way. The students will take ownership in their work and be able to share their data with others. It also allows an experiment to be retested based on the information that the student recorded.

Science notebook presentation, how to set up a science notebook

Engineering is Elementary

Learning Cycle: EiE uses the five "E" learning cycle:  Engineering is Elementary

1.    Engagement: the students are drawn to the challenge because it is interesting to them. The storybooks that commence each unit are designed to capture students' imaginations. Students share their ideas about the problems raised in the story.

2.    Exploration: the students begin to explore related science and engineering principles in brief activities. During this phase they encounter problems or ask questions leading into the explanation phase.

3.    Explanation: students describe what they think is happening and are ready to learn from their peers and teacher.

4.    Elaboration: students apply what they have learned to meet the larger design challenge.

5.    Evaluation: students reflect on what they learned.

Contextual Learning and Problem Solving: Curricula often fail to show students how what they learn in school connects with the world around them. The engineering problems in EiE demonstrate how math, science, engineering, cultural understanding, and creativity are needed to solve a problem. Situating learning in a larger context piques students' interest and helps them to understand how classroom learning interacts with the real world and can be used to solve problems.

Collaborative Learning and Teamwork: Like real-world engineering projects, most EiE activities are done in small groups. With good management from the teacher, this can encourage students to consider more than one solution or idea and work together to develop a design. Working in small groups also provides the opportunity for students to refine communication skills.

Communication: Students need to communicate what they are doing and why, which can encourage deeper reflection. The EiE project encourages children to communicate their ideas through a number of modalities: oral, written, drawn, and built. Whole class discussions moderated by teachers can prompt students to share their insights and learning.

Projects: Assessment of engineering and technology understandings and skills requires more than paper and pencil assessment. EiE projects encourage teamwork and communication. Particularly during the engineering design challenge, students work together to design and create solutions to a problem.

Instructional Resources 

Additional resources or links

Native American Family Technology Journey Why have a Native American Technology Journey? A large and growing number of America's Native American Families are making technology an important part of their daily lives. They regularly use the technologies that affect most facets of their lives.

The Black Family Technology Awareness Campaign Addressing the growing digital divide between minority Americans and mainstream society.

American Indian Science and Engineering Society

The American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) seeks to increase the representation of American Indian and Alaskan Natives in engineering, science, and technology disciplines. AISES hosts events and conferences, posts career resources, internship opportunities, and resources for professional development.


A pdf that will go through the process of making a wigwam and also discover the relationship of pi with circumference Wigwametry

Elementary Engineering in the 2009 Minnesota Academic Standards in Science

The Works is a "hands-on, minds-on" museum that makes learning about engineering, science and technology interesting, understandable and fun.

SHIPS - Resource Center

This site is designed to  help teachers integrate.

S-ociology, Hi-story and P-hilosophy of S-cience in science teaching.

SHIPS is an online library, a repository of information for teachers to plan lessons and to learn more deeply about "nature of science" through history and social studies of science.

Inquiring into Inquiry Learning and Teaching in Science

BrainPop movies that address Benchmark

BrainPOP Albert Einstein

BrainPOP Leonardo da Vinci

BrainPOP Galileo Galilei

RedoBrainPOP International Space Station

A note about BrainPOP

BrainPOP creates animated, curriculum-based content that engages students, supports educators, and bolsters achievement.

To start exploring BrainPOP Jr., BrainPOP, BrainPOP Español, and BrainPOP ESL, register for our Free Trial.

Read the scientifically based research that demonstrates BrainPOP's impact and effectiveness.

If you would like to subscribe, visit the BrainPOP Store or our Funding section.

New Vocabulary 


Men and women throughout the history of all cultures, including Minnesota American Indian tribes and communities, have been involved in engineering design and scientific inquiry.

This standard does not imply any special vocabulary.

Technology Connections 

Galileo - SunSpots

Galileo used his telescope to gather data about the heavens, and his observations and theories sparked much controversy. Contrary to the popular belief of the time, Galileo suggested that Earth was not the center of the universe. In this video segment adapted from NOVA, the importance of unbiased scientific inquiry is demonstrated by Galileo's observations of sunspots.

Teacher's Domain

This video profile produced for Teachers' Domain introduces Dustin Madden, an               Iñupiaq and assistant science teacher in the Anchorage, Alaska, school district.

SHIPS Resource Center-for science teachers using Sociology, History and Philosophy of Science

Who We Are: Our Aim

We are a network primarily of science teachers. Through this website, we aim to offer resources for teaching "history and nature of science" and "personal and social dimensions of science," profiled in many national standards and now featured in many state requirements. We believe teaching should reflect the most recent research and standards of quality in the field of Science Studies. Hence, we also aim to link teachers with each other and with professional historians, philosophers and sociologists of science.

Cross Curricular Connections 

Writing and Journaling activity

Interpreting Native American Herbal Remedies

This module explores some Native American herbal remedies - and interpretations of them by Western science in historical and contemporary contexts. First, it highlights the importance of plants - even possibly familiar local plants - as a source of medicine. Second, it guides practice in evaluating evidence and sources of information (through the testimony of others): when can we trust a remedy to be both safe and effective? Third, it introduces questions about how we assess reliability in science and how such assessments may be shaped by cultural perspectives.

The module is designed to rely on discussion, both in small groups and as a whole class, and on journaling, where students record their views, reasoning and justification in writing. The journal can be used by the students to write a final retrospective of their reasoning process: comparing their earlier conclusions to the ones they would draw at the end of the module.



1. Is It a Theory?  (Keely, P. (2009) Uncovering Student Ideas in Science .Vol. 4 (pp. 83-89 ), [c]USA: NSTA(Press)

2. True or false- modern products are always better then historical ones? Explain your answer:

False- students should understand that, humans designed many complex products and solutions with very limited resources, many historically designed structures are still standing today (this is a level two question)

3. Is the engineering design process used by different cultures the same? Explain your answer.

Students should be able to understand and articulate the engineering design cycle are be aware that it is basically the same for all people and cultures, problem-idea design - build- test- redesign (level 2)

4. give an example of a product that was designed many years ago and is still used today? Who or what culture designed it? (level 2)

This is a reflective question and is designed to get students thinking about the many products they use everyday and how long they have existed and who might have invented them, things like pencils, knives, bow & arrow etc.

5.  Take a look at a modern fishing pole, how do you think this design has evolved over it's hundreds of years in existence, do you think fishing poles look different in different parts of the world, and in different cultures? Why? (level 3)

Students should be able to describe what a primitive pole might have looked like, they may even have experience of their own tying a line to a long stick, the second part of the question has many possible answers, most common in ocean areas larger fish require stronger gear as compared to light fresh water fishing, students may or may not know this, they may have other ideas about how resources of a particular area might change a design or product.

6. At the end of a science unit (pick any fifth grade unit) have students create a mind map start them with the words science and culture off the center and see where they go- this is actually a good formative assessment of the teachers work in connecting these ideas to science contact topics ( I can make a sample of this tonight)


Give examples of complex engineering designs from historical cultures? The pyramids of Myan and Egyptian cultures

In what ways have Native Americans in Minnesota influenced science and engineering?

How can students show how science and engineering  has be used throughout history in Minnesota?

Why is it important for students to understand how science and engineering has evolved over time and through a variety of cultures.


If observing a lesson on this standard what might they expect to see.

Students using science and engineering methods of the past and from Minnesota Natives to show the impact history has played

etchers should be overt in their language and discussions about people and cultures, for example when talking about the pyramids refer to the builders as engineers, discussions of medical professionals should include shaken and beakers from other cultures. Teachers and schools should be careful not to host special "science and culture" days like African American science month- this just reinforces that every other month is white science month, these inclusions should happen all year and throughout the curriculum, not as special events.


Struggling Learners 

Struggling and At-Risk:

Teaching Science to Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Elementary Students, 1/E Cox-Petersen, Melber & Patchen

Teaching Science to Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Elementary Students helps K-8 teachers implement culturally relevant instructional strategies to ensure that all students, regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic class, can do science, like science, and become scientists if they choose.

In America's increasingly diverse classrooms, science is not always presented in a way that is meaningful to all students. With this in mind, this book outlines 8 culturally relevant strategies for teaching scienceto help ensure all students have access to inquiry-based, interactive, and experiential science learning. Written to encourage inclusive practices, the book shows how to teach science using students' experiences, how to integrate science and literacy and how to use alternative methods to assess students' understanding of science.

English Language Learners 

The following link will bring you to a pdf that outlines some great ideas to support your ELL students. ELL Resource

FOSS Science Stories for literary challenged or Hearing Impaired

All FOSS Science Modules have an online component that has the FOSS Science Stories recorded to listen online or download. These audio files can be found in the Teacher Resource section of each Module website.

Extending the Learning 


What Should a Science Curriculum for Gifted Students Include?

At the Center for Gifted Education at the College of William and Mary, the past six years has been spent addressing issues of appropriate science curriculum and instruction for high ability students as well as melding those ideas to the template of curriculum reform for all students in science. Consequently, the elements essential for high ability learners also have saliency for other learners as well. The most important include the following elements:

An Emphasis on Learning Concepts. By restructuring science curriculum to emphasize those ideas deemed most appropriate for students to know and grounded in the view of the disciplines held by practicing scientists, we allow students to learn at deeper levels the fundamental ideas central to understanding and doing science in the real world. Concepts such as systems, change, reductionism, and scale all provide an important scaffold for learning about the core ideas of science that do not change, although the specific applications taught about them may.

An Emphasis on Higher-Level Thinking. Students need to learn about important science concepts and also to manipulate those concepts in complex ways. Having students analyze the relationship between real world problems, like an acid spill on the highway, and the implications of that incident for understanding science and for seeing the connections between science and society provides opportunities for both critical and creative thinking within a problem-based episode.

An Emphasis on Inquiry, Especially Problem-Based Learning. The more that students can construct their understanding about science for themselves, the better able they will be to encounter new situations and apply appropriate scientific processes to them. Through guided questions by the teacher, collaborative dialogue and discussion with peers, and individual exploration of key questions, students can grow in the development of valuable habits of mind found among scientists, such as skepticism, objectivity, and curiosity (VanTassel-Baska, Gallagher, Bailey, & Sher, 1993).

An Emphasis on the Use of Technology as a Learning Tool. The use of technology to teach science offers some exciting possibilities for connecting students to real world opportunities. Access to the world of scientific papers through CD-ROM databases offers new avenues for exploration. Internet access provides teachers wonderful connections to well-constructed units of study in science as well as ideas for teaching key concepts, and e-mail allows students to communicate directly with scientists and other students around the world on questions related to their research projects.

An Emphasis on Learning the Scientific Process, Using Experimental Design Procedures. One of the realities we have uncovered is how little students know about experimental design and its related processes. Typically, basal texts will offer canned experiments where students follow the steps to a preordained conclusion. Rarely are they encouraged to design their own experiments. Such original work in science would require them to read and discuss a particular topic of interest, come up with a problem about that topic to be tested, and then follow through in a reiterative fashion with appropriate procedures, further discussion, a reanalysis of the problem, and communication of findings to a relevant audience.


Multicultural Science Education

from St. Paul Schools Multicultural Resource Center

Educators have often overlooked cultural beliefs and perspectives in science education, however recent research emphasizes the importance of recognizing diversity in the science classroom.  Recognizing diversity facilitates a more active learning experience for the student because it emphasizes understanding in terms of different perspectives rather than just learning the facts. Children are not all the same, and consequently, the way that they all do science will not be the same. Teachers must find a way to make science appealing to everyone, and multicultural education is one way to facilitate communication in all subjects between students, their teachers, and the rest of society.

Special Education 

Special Education in the Science Classroom: Strategies for Success

This site will provide information for the classroom teacher on how to adapt science lessons to meet many needs of Special Education including;

Dealing with Issues Related to Attention

Dealing with Issues Related to Information Processing and Communication

Dealing with Issues Related to Organization

Dealing with Issues Related to Social Interaction

Dealing with Issues Related to Time and Making Transitions