The Nature of Science

Science has been an integral class within the American education system since the beginning. We can all remember learning about science from a young age, whether by dissecting cow’s eyes in second grade, or by using beakers and Bunsen burners in middle and high school.

Today’s students regularly attend science class, and esteemed scientists are held up as role models. And yet, researchers found that when they asked the question, “What is science?”, the majority of people -- not just students -- couldn’t supply a reasonable answer.  Many would respond “biology” and “chemistry,” and some would even say that “science is everything.” While biology and chemistry are branches of science, they don’t define what science is. And while science has impacted many aspects of human life, science certainly isn’t “everything.”

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Due to this misconception about what science is, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) included a section on the “Nature of Science.”  This chapter defines science and provides grade-band appropriate understandings to help teachers guide their students. According to the NGSS, science is a “way of explaining the natural world.  Science is both a set of practices and the historical accumulation of knowledge.” In other words, science is two things: 1) A process with defined steps, and 2) a body of knowledge that is added to and altered due to the scientific process.

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At Cody Outdoor Classroom, we emphasize the nature of science in every lesson we teach. We want students to learn interesting and important scientific content, and we also want them to engage in and recognize the process through which they learn that content.  Our stream table lesson begins by asking students to simply make observations of how a stream runs through a landscape. They then form questions about where erosion occurs, make hypotheses, and perform tests and gather data.

We are passionate about creating a generation of students that are scientifically literate and understand what science is and how it can be used. Our classroom and residential programs are designed increase students’ knowledge of content as well as the nature of what science is.


Lederman, Norman G. "Students' and teachers' conceptions of the nature of science: A review of the research." Journal of research in science teaching 29.4 (1992): 331-359.

NGSS Lead States. 2013. Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.