Nature of Science

In this course, students are introduced to the main branches of science and come to understand what makes a discipline a ‘science’. The goal is to awaken students to the natural things already a part of their experience and develop in them the habit of attending to the nuances of nature. They are encouraged to wonder at the pervasive mystery in nature, and seek the deepest reasons “Why?”. As they hone their senses, the students will learn to reason scientifically about what they observe in order to pursue an understanding of the natures of natural things. Particular attention is given throughout the course to provoking questions of why natural things exhibit themselves as they do.

The academic year aligns with four aspects of study. We begin with observation, measurement, and the concepts of nature and science in order for the students to get a sense of the general principles underlying all the natural sciences. We then study the major branches of science: biology, chemistry, physics. We begin with what is most known to the students already and move towards what is less obvious and more abstract.

The class is framed by two goals which run parallel to one another throughout the year: 1) to give the students a sense of the full range of natural things and ideas which are considered in science and 2) to shape their understanding of what it means to reason about nature and have knowledge of it.  The approach is historical and is designed to develop the students’ questions and reasoning.  Students are introduced to many basic concepts like metabolic systems, mass, density, inertia, projectile motion, optics, atomic theory, etc. within the context of the exciting discoveries made by people like Aristotle, Euclid, Faraday, Lavoisier, Newton, Bohr, Galileo, and Maxwell.