Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

Millbrook, NY
November 1, 2012

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Founded in 1983, the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies is one of the world’s leading independent environmental research organizations. Areas of expertise include freshwater, the ecology of infectious diseases, environmental chemistry, invasive species, and climate change.

Thursday, November 1

Amy PallantScientific Seminar – Looking at the Evidence: How Certain Are We?

Amy Pallant


Science is not (all) about facts. There are unknown questions to be answered, unknown discoveries to be made. So, how do we engage students with those unknowns and have them explore the sources of scientific uncertainty? And how does their understanding of complex scientific issues change when they have to justify their claims?

What if the unknown is climate change?
Take the question: What will Earth’s average temperature be in 2100? There is no right or wrong answer, yet scientists get excited about what they don’t know and tackle the question head on.

To prepare students to weigh arguments and make informed decisions, we need instruction that promotes coherent understanding of data, as well as the factors that influence how certain we can be of the data. The Concord Consortium’s High- Adventure Science project created three investigations for middle and high school students that focus on current, compelling, unanswered scientific questions.

Students make claims based on evidence from computational models, compare their results to real-world data, justify their claims, and describe what influenced their confidence in their claims.

This presentation will focus on how students’ scientific argumentation skills are changed through the process of teaching students how to think explicitly about certainty with respect to data and the use of interactive models. Especially in frontier science where claims can be disputed and changes arise as new evidence is produced, this level of critical thinking is a key skill for students to develop.

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