- UC Museum of Paleontology
- Classroom activity
Time: 10 to 15 minutes
Students engage in an activity that clarifies the scientific meaning of the term theory.
- [Nature of science: Grades 9-12] Accepted scientific theories are not tenuous; they must survive rigorous testing and be supported by multiple lines of evidence to be accepted. (NOS2, NOS4)
- [Nature of science: Grades 13-16] Accepted scientific theories are not tenuous; they must survive rigorous testing and be supported by multiple lines of evidence to be accepted.
- NOS Matrix understanding category 2. Scientific knowledge is based on empirical evidence.
- NOS Matrix understanding category 4. Scientific models, laws, mechanisms, and theories explain natural phenomena.
This straightforward activity is a good one for the first day of class.
Additional teaching tips for 13-16:
Use this resource to relate evolutionary concepts to the nature and process of science (or get more suggestions for incorporating evolution throughout your biology syllabus). You might expand this activity by asking students what they think would happen if a scientist performed an experiment that did NOT support the theory? What would other scientists do? Would the theory be thrown out? This is also a good opportunity to discuss peer review, sample size, repeatability and modifying hypotheses and theories based on new data.