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

Science and engineering operate in the context of society and both influence and are influenced by this context.

Benchmark: Role of Values and Constraints

Describe how values and constraints affect science and engineering.

For example: Economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health, safety and sustainability issues.

Benchmark: Persuasive Communications

Communicate, justify and defend the procedures and results of a scientific inquiry or engineering design project using verbal, graphic, quantitative, virtual or written means.

Benchmark: Multi-disciplinary Efforts

Describe how scientific investigations and engineering processes require multi-disciplinary contributions and efforts.

For example: Nanotechnology, climate change, agriculture or biotechnology.


Standard in Lay Terms 

MN Standard in Lay Terms

Science and technology do not stand alone.  They are influenced by the values and norms of the society in which they occur.  Science is influenced by society and in turn, society is influenced by science.

Big Ideas and Essential Understandings 

Big Idea

The study of science does not stand alone.  It is influenced as well as influences the values, attitudes and needs of the society in which it operates.  Communication of scientific findings is therefore a critical component of scientific research, and must be done using a variety of methods in order to be as clear as possible about the outcomes of findings.

Benchmark Cluster 

MN Standard Benchmarks:  Describe how values and constraints affect science and engineering.  Communicate, justify and defend the procedures and results of a scientific inquiry or engineering design project using verbal, graphic, quantitative, virtual or written means.  Describe how scientific investigations and engineering processes require multi-disciplinary contributions and efforts.

The Essentials

See this page.


Skills necessary to become independent inquirers about the natural world.

The dispositions to use the skills, abilities, and attitudes associated with science

Current ethics in science hold that research involving human subjects may be conducted only with the informed consent of the subjects, even if this constraint limits some kinds of potentially important research or influences the results. 1C/H5a*

When applications of research could pose risks to society, scientists' decisions to participate in that research are based on personal as well as professional ethics. 1C/H5b*

Scientists can bring information, insights, and analytical skills to bear on matters of public concern. Acting in their areas of expertise, scientists can help people understand the likely causes of events and estimate their possible effects. 1C/H6ab

Because science is a human activity, what is valued in society influences what is valued in science. 1C/H10** (SFAA)

The direction of scientific research is affected by informal influences within the culture of science itself, such as prevailing opinion on which questions are most interesting or which methods of investigation are most likely to be fruitful. Elaborate processes involving scientists themselves have been developed to decide which research proposals receive funding, and committees of scientists regularly review progress in various disciplines to recommend general priorities for funding. 1C/H11** (SFAA)

The dissemination of scientific information is crucial to its progress. Some scientists present their findings and theories in papers that are delivered at meetings or published in scientific journals. Those papers enable scientists to inform others about their work, to expose their ideas to criticism by other scientists, and, of course, to stay abreast of scientific developments around the world. 1C/H12** (SFAA)

Benchmarks of Science Literacy

see AAAS

Common Core Standards

Math:  Statistics and Probability - S-ID

Summarize, represent, and interpret data on a single count or measurement variable

Summarize, represent, and interpret data on two categorical and quantitative variables.

Interpret linear models

Understand and evaluate random processes underlying statistical experiments.

Make inferences and justify conclusions from sample surveys, experiments, and observational studies.

Understand independence and conditional probability and use them to interpret data

Use probability to evaluate outcomes of decisions.

Language Arts


Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

For literacy in History/Social Studies

(1)Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the data and origin of the information.

(7) Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g. charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.

For literacy in Science and Technical Subjects

(3)  Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks: analyze the specific results based on explanations in the text.

(8)  Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author's claim or a recommendation for solving a scientific or technical problem.


Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.


Student Misconceptions 
  • Students tend to look for or accept evidence that is consistent with their prior beliefs, and either distort or fail to generate evidence that is inconsistent with these beliefs.  These deficiencies tend to mitigate over time and with experience (Schauble, 1990, Atlas, Project 2061).
  • Scientists don't need to study Language Arts.
  • Scientists cannot/will not communicate with the general public.


Students in biology have been doing independent research projects (working on a variety of topics, curriculum and standards, but choosing their favorite) over the past several months.  It is now time to share their findings and conclusions in a process known as an "oral defense."  Students wait their turn to share a "concurrent session" style PowerPoint with their peers. They are now up for "peer review."  The students, although always respectful, are quick to critique their peer's work.  Data are re-analyzed, results are challenged, statistics are interpreted, re-analyzed and re-interpreted.  Everyone is engaged and the excitement is palpable.  The goal is that everyone will do well and work together in the process.  Students are open and willing to suggestion and modification as they work as a team.

Once the projects are polished, it is time to open them up to public scrutiny.  In an evening in early January, between Minnesota snow storms, parents, friends, teachers and administrators come to the party.  Posters have been created with all of the formatting necessary to truly communicate the procedure, findings, and conclusion of each project.  Students are instructed to write in third person, past tense, and passive voice.  Credit is given for clarity as well as appropriate data analysis and background.  Students are expected to use the correct format, including acknowledgements and bibliography or references.  They will write in MLA format and will be graded on their accuracy.  Other departments, such as the language arts department, are brought in to clarify any questions about format and difficulties in citing references.

In order to critique the clarity of their work, students grade each other's projects.  For example, the AP students will critique the 9th and 10th grade projects.  This has the advantage of providing assessment of communication by the appropriate audiences and not just by the teacher, whose judgment may be clouded by too much background knowledge.  At the end of the day, students have a project that has been well documented and has been clearly communicated to others.


Instructional Notes 

Suggested Labs and Activities,, Tire Tread Design

Students learn how tire tread patterns are developed and changed over time to achieve safety and efficiency in a range of driving conditions.  Students work in teams to develop a new tread pattern to prevent hydroplaning in heavy rain; first on paper and then by building a clay model.  Teams evaluate their own systems and that of other students, and present their findings to the class.

Try Engineering  Environmental Research

Students research an environmental issue and determine the values that either caused the disaster and/or are leading to a solution.  Examples include: global warming, endangered species, sustainable farming, Gulf oil spill.  One example is to look at the wolf population in Minnesota.  Research the risks and benefits of leaving wolves on the endangered species list.  Students then conduct a formal debate with one side taking the side of the "farmers" and the other side taking the side of the "wolves."    Public Communication and Peer Review

After completing a formal research paper and/or experimental procedure, students work to communicate their findings to the general public.  They may create posters, PowerPoint presentations, lectures and more.  One possibility is for the presentations to take place in the late afternoon and evening so that parents can enjoy them, too.  See for further details.     Farming Industry

Agriculture has been a staple of the Minnesota economy for generations.  Students research the industry of agriculture.  How is it regulated?  What are the factors that contribute to crop selection from an economical and social point of view and from a biological and/or chemical point of view?  How is sustainability maintained?  Students research their positions and then conduct a fish bowl discussion to share viewpoints.

Instructional suggestions/options

Public presentation of the procedures and results of scientific inquiry provides an invaluable experience for students.  This is a skill that is of great significance in science. (If a scientist discovers something but he doesn't publish it, did it happen?)

Involving family and friends in the presentations adds an element of formality and importance to the experience.  Teaching students to present not only their work but also themselves appropriately is a valuable lesson.  Students can be taught the formality of presentation in preparation, dress and manners.

Additional Connections:

Chemistry - section 9C2.1.2.1  (suggested activities available)

Physics - section 9P2.3.1  (suggested activities available)

Instructional Resources 

Additional resources or links

MLA (Modern Language Association)  version of paper and presentation formats

APA (Amerian Psychological Association)  version of paper and presentation formats

New Vocabulary 


  • Constraints: Limitations to a project or procedure.  These may be based on physical means or ethical means.
  • Graphic: A visual presentation such as a poster, diagram or model.
  • Multi-disciplinary contributions: From a variety of sources and/or disciplines of study.
  • Qualitative: Referring to a measure that does not involve "hard" numbers.  Examples may include beautiful, healthy, etc.
  • Quantitative: Referring to measurement and numbers.    
  • Values: The ethical basis of a society.  Items such as honesty, motivation.
  • Verbal: An oral presentation of research results.
  • Virtual: Generally refers to electronic presentation and/or simulation.
  • Written: Words used to describe a project, procedure, experiment etc.
Technology Connections 

Virtual means of presentation  -  PowerPoint, Data spread sheets, YouTube etc.

LCD projectors

Cross Curricular Connections 

Speech classes provide an obvious and very effective cross-curricular connection for presentation skills.  It may even be possible for students to receive credit for speech assignments as they present their work for their science classes.


Assessment of Students

Choose an environmental issue and determine what values and constraints may be contributing to the progress on this issue.

Answers will vary.

What are the important points to include when reporting scientific inquiry investigations?  What order is recommended for their presentation?

ANSWER:  May include purpose, hypothesis, methods, results, analysis, and conclusion.

Why is it important to look professional when presenting your work to the public?

ANSWER:  It is a lot easier to look smart than to actually be smart!

Assessment of Teachers

How would you teach a student to present himself/herself in a formal public presentation?  What is important in that presentation?  How does "dress" relate to this?

In the case of a nuclear power plant failure like the one that happened following the tsunami in Japan, which multi-disciplinary contributions must be taken into consideration.  How do the values of the community affect the plan and outcome of the solution and how is this perceived by the rest of the world?    

How would you advise students to present information via virtual means?  What programs would be beneficial and what rules would you suggest they follow?


Struggling Learners 

Struggling and At-Risk:

Struggling and At-Risk students tend to give up easily, especially if faced with a situation where they risk public criticism.  A smaller forum may be appropriate until they feel more comfortable.

English Language Learners 

Like special education students, these students may be hesitant to present publicly.  They may feel more secure if they can present in a way that is not verbal, such as poster presentation.  A poster presentation would allow for more time and more help with language.

Extending the Learning 

Gifted and talented students may have more confidence in presentation as they have probably been repeatedly encouraged to demonstrate their gifts.  They should be allowed to participate in opportunities in which competition is a possibility, such as INTEL talent searches, ISEF science fairs and others.


A discussion of cultural values may have great impact in standard  Do the values and constraints affecting science and engineering change depending on culture?  How do they change and what are the ultimate effects of this change?

Multi-cultural students may need more support in presentation, depending on their confidence levels.

Special Education 

Students with learning disabilities may be hesitant to publicly present their work.  It may be appropriate to present in a smaller forum first and then work up to a larger venue.


Classroom Observation 


An administrator might be invited to a "Science Symposium" during which students will be presenting their work.  The air will buzz with the excitement of it all.  The students will be dressed professionally and speaking as authorities on their project. Feel free to interview them and share in their progress and successes.


Experience has shown that parental support is a huge part of success in presentation.  This may apply to poster paper purchase, encouragement and support in completion, and serving as a practice coach for presentation.  Parents can and should offer their impressions of the presentation and support the efforts of their children.

A discussions of perceived limitations on scientific research due to ethical values would be very appropriate here.  How does your family or group feel about stem cell research, genetic engineering, or nuclear power?