Emerging Technologies

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

Current and emerging technologies have enabled humans to develop and use models to understand and communicate how natural and designed systems work and interact.

Benchmark: Use of Maps & Data Sets

Use maps, satellite images and other data sets to describe patterns and make predictions about local and global systems in Earth science contexts.

For example: Use data or satellite images to identify locations of earthquakes and volcanoes, ages of sea floor, ocean surface temperatures and ozone concentration in the stratosphere.

Benchmark: Procedures for Investigations

Determine and use appropriate safety procedures, tools, measurements, graphs and mathematical analyses to describe and investigate natural and designed systems in Earth and physical science contexts.


Standard in Lay Terms 

MN Standard in lay terms: The "Nature" of science and engineering here speaks to the essence or core ideas we believe about science and engineering. For example, our understanding of how the earth system works is a dynamic model. Throughout history, our understanding has evolved, from a simplistic model requiring help from supernatural beings or forces to more complex models that are grounded in evidence. Our desire to collect observations drives this evolution. Better observations may be obtained through better tools. Better tools are the result of advances in technology and engineering. If any "big idea" in science is examined, you will see that our understanding is directly related to advancements in technology and engineering that allows for better tests to be designed. In earth system science, these big ideas are embodied in the questions:

  • How did the Earth form?
  • How does the Earth work?
Big Ideas and Essential Understandings 

Big Idea:

  • NSTA Position Statement: The Nature of Science: This statement from the National Science Teachers Association does a good job of delineating the characteristics of science and giving meaning to key science buzz words, such as theory and law.
  • The Earth Science Literacy Principles is a literacy initiative that represents the big ideas of earth science that all citizens should know. This standard connects with Big Idea 1. Earth scientists use repeatable observations and testable ideas to understand and explain our planet. Specifically, sub-points 1.6 and 1.7 are addressed in this standard.
  • 1.6 Earth scientists construct models of Earth and its processes that best explain the available geological evidence. These scientific models, which can be conceptual or analytical, undergo rigorous scrutiny and testing by collaborating and competing groups of scientists around the world. Earth science research documents are subjected to rigorous peer review before they are published in science journals.
  • 1.7  Technological advances, breakthroughs in interpretation, and new observations continuously refine our understanding of Earth.
Benchmark Cluster 

MN Standard Benchmarks

  • BENCHMARK: Use of Maps & Data Sets

Use maps, satellite images and other data sets to describe patterns and make predictions about local and global systems in Earth science contexts.

For example: Use data or satellite images to identify locations of earthquakes and volcanoes, ages of sea floor, ocean surface temperatures and ozone concentration in the stratosphere.

  • BENCHMARK: Procedures for Investigations

Determine and use appropriate safety procedures, tools, measurements, graphs and mathematical analyses to describe and investigate natural and designed systems in Earth and physical science contexts.



  • NSES Standards:

Content Standard A: Science as Inquiry

    • Technology used to gather data enhances accuracy and allows scientists to analyze and quantify results of investigations.
  • AAAS Atlas:
  • Benchmarks of Science Literacy:

3. The Nature of Technology: ATechnology and Science

    • Technology is essential to science for such purposes as access to outer space and other remote locations, sample collection and treatment, measurement, data collection and storage, computation, and communication of information. 3A/M2
  • Common Core Standards (i.e. connections with Math, Social Studies or Language Arts Standards):
  • Minnesota's newly revised (2010) English Language Arts (ELA) standards set K-12requirements not only for ELA but also for literacy in history/social studies, science and technical subjects.
  •  Gather relevant information from multiple data,  print, physical (e.g., artifacts, objects, images), and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
  •  Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
  • Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards in Mathematics (2007 version). Adopted September 22, 2008.
  • Collect, display and interpret data using scatterplots. Use the shape of the scatterplot to informally estimate a line of best fit and determine an equation for the line. Use appropriate titles, labels and units. Know how to use graphing technology to display scatterplots and corresponding lines of best fit.
  • Use a line of best fit to make statements about approximate rate of change and to make predictions about values not in the original data set.
  • Assess the reasonableness of predictions using scatterplots by interpreting them in the original context.


Student Misconceptions 

This article from Science Scope by Renee Schwartz, looks at ways that our word choices develop misconceptions about the nature of science. The author talks about making a list of dead words that are off limits to use in describing scientific work. These words include: proof, prove, proving, truth/true. right/wrong (when discussing conclusions to investigations). Alternative words include: support, evidence, evidence-based, valid. The author also examines the improper use of questions that lead students to develop misconceptions about the nature of science and engineering. Instead of asking a student if they were able to prove their hypothesis, ask if they were able to support their hypothesis. Instead of asking students how the scientific method was used, ask students what their question was and how did they do their investigation to answer the question.

  • Science is able to find absolute answers.
  • All scientific investigations require the use of the scientific method.
  • Science and technology can solve all our problems.


Students in Mrs. S's eighth grade science class have been studying plate boundaries and the features and events that show evidence of plate boundaries.  At the start of class she gave the students a challenge, "In a few minutes, I am going to have you grab a laptop and open Google Earth."  As she spoke, she opened Google Earth, so that it projected on the interactive whiteboard.  We have been talking about plate boundaries and features of plate boundaries.  If we were looking to find specific plate boundaries on Earth, what would we look for?"  "Mountains!", hollered Jake.  "Lots of earthquakes and volcanoes", offered Saren.  "Inland seas and trenches" said Caroline.  "Good!  This morning, I want you to use your Google Earth to look for evidence of plate boundaries.  Each group is going to select a location and study that area for plate boundaries.  I am going to want you to propose what specific type of plate boundary is there: transform, divergent, or one of the convergent boundaries.  I will expect you to have some evidence to back up your hypothesis.  Here is a list of the sites: India, East Africa, Chile, Iceland, Sumatra, the Aleutian Islands, Japan, California and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.  If you want to select another area, just let me know.  You will have the rest of the class period to work on this, then tomorrow you will present your findings to the class.  Any questions" Students shook their heads as she paused.  "Okay, then let's get the laptops warmed up and get started!"

Mrs. S. circulated through the room as students worked.  She showed a couple of students how to turn on earthquakes and volcanoes in the gallery in Google Earth, so that they were visible.  Zak excitedly interrupted, "Mrs. S.  look at this - there was just an earthquake in Japan!"  Several students crowded around the computer to see the information displayed on the screen.  "I wonder if we have any?  I am going to check!", exclaimed Javelyn as she raced back to her computer.  Mrs. S. stopped behind Riley and asked, "What are you seeing there?"  "Well, it looks like there is a big trench just off the coast of Chile and there are earthquakes and a whole line of volcanoes.  I think it has to be some sort of convergent boundary."  "Hmm...", said Mrs. S. as she smiled and walked away. 

The next day, students got right to work bringing up their Google Earth programs and going over their notes for their presentation.  Mrs. S. called up the first group. "We had the Aleutian Islands, said Michael as he gestured toward the screen.  As you can see there are a lot of earthquakes and volcanoes." "Yeah, and there is like this humongous trench right here!", pointed Tom. "The earthquakes look like they follow along that trench."  "And we saw that this is a whole string of islands in an arc shape, so we think it is a oceanic-oceanic convergent boundary", added Sierra.  "Very nice!", said Mrs. S.  "You have some good evidence to back up your hypothesis."

When all of the groups finished presenting, Mrs. S. summarized what they found.  "Most you you were able to correctly identify the plate boundaries.  We looked at a lot of data here and..." "That was data?", interrupted Zak.  "I thought data had to be in like a table or something." "No, that is what is cool about Google Earth", Mrs. S. explained.  "It takes a lot of data and puts it in a  more visual format so that it makes sense to people more easily.  As the year goes on, we will be using Google Earth to explore a number of topics, but it is just one of many tools for us to find out more about science.  Nice work everyone!  Tomorrow, we will start looking at some other data scientists are collecting by using technology to find out about earthquakes and tsunamis.  Be sure to pick up a graphic organizer to put in your notebook for that before you leave class today!"


Instructional Notes 

Instructional suggestions/options; examples of best practices with a focus on active engagement practices (reflected in snapshot).

  • As you can see from the activities and resources that are listed here, this standard is not intended to be taught as a stand alone unit as some of the other science content standards could. Rather, the Nature of Science and Engineering standards were meant to be embedded into the units currently being taught. All of the resources provided here are also linked to another science standard. We encourage you to carefully consider the questions posed in the assessment segment of this website as you design lessons for your classes. They are:
  • What sources of data are available to get at the concepts that I teach about Earth?
  • How can I use these data sets to help students find patterns and relationships about Earth and its processes?
  • What tools can I provide for students to design investigations and collect data on real-world questions?
  • Evaluating data, analyzing procedures, synthesizing models are all  higher-order thinking skill and encourage students to engage with you in significant ways.

Selected activities, labs, lessons, problems, etc. Align w/Benchmark code. Should be reflected in snapshot.

  • Discovering Plate Boundaries has a collection of maps and activities that can be used in part or whole to look at patterns related to plate boundaries.  Color maps can be viewed or printed at different resolutions.,
  • This web page is part of the Understanding Science project developed by the University of California Museum of Paleontology, in collaboration with a diverse group of scientists and teachers. It contains some case studies that can be used to illustrate how scientists utilize evidence to test and revise their models. Particularly appropriate for 8th grade earth system science is the case study involving Walter and Louis Alvarez,
  • In Dino Data, students are presented with a set of data about dinosaurs and asked to hypothesize about what the data can tell us. Students modify their hypotheses as more information is revealed and review what they have learned about how science works.,
  • Heating and Cooling of the Earth's Surface is an activity that asks students make observations, formulate hypotheses, and design experiments to test their ideas about the heating and cooling of different materials.,
  • Satellite Meteorology is a resource developed by UW-Madison for use in the 7-12 classroom. These modules cover meteorology from the standpoint of satellite images. Each module has interactive features that allow students to manipulate variables to learn about meteorology concepts. Of particular usefulness is the teacher resource page which allows you to examine ways in which other teachers have made use of this website.,,
Instructional Resources 

Additional resources or links:

  • Teaching Science Literacy is an article written by Maria Grant and Diane Lapp in Educational Leadership overviews getting students engaged in real-life science research through current articles and data that are of high interest to their age group.
  • This interactive scientific flowchart represents the process of scientific inquiry, through which we build reliable knowledge of the natural world. You can use it to trace the development of different scientific ideas and/or the research efforts of individual scientists. Most ideas take a circuitous path through the process, shaped by unique people and events. It could be very helpful in talking about the scientific process in which models are developed and revised.
New Vocabulary 

Vocabulary/Glossary: (align with standard, benchmarks, test specs)

  • Model: a representation used to study a process or an event.
  • Technology: The use of specific methods, materials and devices to research practical problems.
  • Data: A series of observations, measurements and/or statistics.
  • System: A system is a collection of interdependent parts enclosed within a defined boundary.
  • Evidence: observations of phenomena that occur in the natural world, or which are created from experiments in a laboratory or other controlled conditions.
Technology Connections 
  • Google Earth is a free download with a plethora of satellite images and related data from all over the world and space.  There are many related sites with classroom applications, as well as additional free data sets.
  • NASA: Eyes on the Earth 3D:  An engaging site where students can get current and past data sets related to climate change on Earth.  Data is represented in color and 3D images.
  • USGS has a vast network of links to real-time data, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and streamflow.
  • Minnesota Climatology Group has historical data related to weather and climate for Minnesota.  Data sets can be graphed to look for changes over time.
Cross Curricular Connections 
  • Use of data sets and measurement tools lend themselves well to math applications.  Data can be gathered (either from the web or by students) and graphed in various ways to look for relationships. Conversations can be had about significant figures or how numbers translate to color on a digital image.  Rather than obscure problems in math, students can be presented with real data sets to use on a topic that interests them. 
  • Art skills can easily be pulled into and further developed through looking for patterns and differences in images.  Discerning between colors and image details with an artful eye is beneficial is the correct interpretation of what an image represents.
  • Searching for data sets and deciphering the meaning of data embedded in current event articles utilizes multiple language arts skills.  The use of language influences the way that a set of data is interpreted.  This is something that students need to be aware of as they read science-related articles or write about the findings in their own data. 



  • Talking Science: Interpreting Data Discussion neatly outlines a simple series of questions that teachers can use to lead students through a discussion on a data set.  These questions would particularly be useful in the setting of a formative assessment, but could also be used as a summative assessment in conversation with a student.
  • Keeley, P. (2008). Uncovering student ideas in science, volume 3. Arlington, VA: NSTA Press. The entire series of Uncovering Student Ideas...books is useful as both a resource and for a myriad of quick, simple formative assessments, each with research and tips for using, K-12.  This particular volume contains the "nature of science" assessment probes, in addition to those that are more content specific.  The "Doing Science" probe (p. 93) and "What is a Hypothesis?" (p. 101) relate most directly to this standard.
  • This an idea for an assessment taken from the satellite meteorology modules. It utilizes a visible satellite image and then poses a series of questions about the interpretation of the data illustrated by this image. Any image or graphic used in discussing data and evidence may be used in this way.

Teachers: Questions could be used as self-reflection or in professional development sessions.

  • What sources of data are available to get at the concepts that I teach about Earth?
  • How can I use these data sets to help students find patterns and relationships about Earth and its processes?
  • What tools can I provide for students to design investigations and collect data on real-world questions?


  • Administrators can expect to see students working busily in small groups, either collecting data through instruments or observation, or obtaining data online.  Students may be using traditional paper/pencil means to graph or otherwise represent data or they may be using digital tools to accomplish this task.  Regardless, looking for patterns in data of various kinds requires conversations between groups of students and between students and teacher.  Working through what they see to what it means is not a skill that develops well in isolation.  Because we live in a data-saturated world, this is an imperative skill for students to develop in the 21st century classroom.


At Risk 

Snow, D. (2003). Noteworthy perspectives: Classroom strategies for helping at-risk students (rev. ed.). Aurora, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.

  • In 2002, McREL conducted a synthesis of recent research on instructional strategies to assist students who are low achieving or at risk of failure. From this synthesis of research, McREL identified six general classroom strategies that research indicates are particularly effective in helping struggling students achieve success:
  • Whole-class instruction that balances constructivist and behaviorist strategies
  • Cognitively oriented instruction which combines cognitive and meta-cognitive strategies with other learning activities
  • Small groups of either like-ability or mixed-ability students
  • Tutoring that emphasizes diagnostic and prescriptive interactions
  • Peer tutoring, including classroom-wide peer tutoring, peer-assisted learning strategies, and reciprocal peer tutoring
  • Computer-assisted instruction in which teachers have a significant role in facilitating activities
  • Complete results of this study may be downloaded here.
English Language Learners 

This page contains strategies to help teachers better attend to the needs of their ELL learners.  These strategies are grouped according to the following learning tasks: listening, visualization, interpersonal communication, laboratory, demonstrations, reading and writing, instruction and vocabulary.

  • Klentschy, M. (2010). Using science notebooks in middle school. Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.
  • Strategies:
  • Front-loading: Teachers plan for words that ELL students will encounter as they do inquiry and within the particular content being studied.  They need to provide not only experience with vocabulary words (the "bricks"), but also the form and context in which they are used in spoken or written language (the "mortar").
  • Word Wall: The teacher writes and discusses the needed vocabulary and posts the words on chart paper, sentence strips, or the board, making sure they remain in clear view for students to use as a resource when writing or speaking.
  • Kit Inventory:  Uses science materials from the current lesson, allowing students to question and discuss the scientific name of these items, their use, and description of the properties of those materials (made of plastic, cylinder-shaped, etc.) in their investigations.
  • Everyday Words and Science Words:  Purposely contrast the meaning of everyday words and science words (For example: "write down" versus "record").  These could be recorded on a chart for student reference.
  • Sentence Stems: Use abbreviated stems or scaffolds to help students begin writing in their science notebooks about their inquiry investigations:
  • I observed _____.
  • I wondered _____.
  • I thought _____ would happen.
  • Today I learned _____.
  • Questions I have now _____.
Extending the Learning 


Critically looking at the current claims and evidences of the times is an opportunity for gifted and talented students to delve more deeply into science content and to engage in lively debate with their peers.  Earth Magazine, Nature, National Geographic and Science Daily all provide a wealth of current research and findings on a variety of science topics.

  • Native Americans In Science is a webpage sponsored by Oracle Education Foundations ThinkQuest library that highlights contributions different Native Americans scientists have made in different scientific disciplines.
  • West Virginia University hosts a website that serves as a resource for teaching science to Native American students.
Special Education 
  • Students With Disabilities is a position statement by the National Science Teachers Association concerning the inclusion of and basic adaptations for students with disabilities in the science classroom.
  • Many of the adaptations listed below for ELL students also work well for special education students.
  • Technologies for Special Needs Students: In their newsletter, "Tech Trek",  from the National Science Teachers Association, suggestions are given for using various technologies to make science more accessible to students.  Included are ideas for computer-assisted instruction, assistive technologies (such as voice-recognition software), as well as internet links and additional resources.



The media and home are now saturated with digital satellite maps, images, and sources of data.  This provides multiple opportunities for children to share their school experiences with their families and parents to have conversations about everything from radar maps to the images of the local lake area.  Data used in the media can also be a impetus for some lively debate.  How is it used?  What is the source?  Was the data gathered by scientific means?  How big was the sample size?  Are the findings logical?  Most students tend to accept anything in digital format as "the truth".  Teaching them to look critically at the information that bombards them on a daily basis is a 21st century life skill.