Observing Beyond our Senses – Unit Plan

In this unit, students are confronted with increasingly complex examples to build an understanding of how scientists measure what we cannot directly observe with our senses. Trade-offs in instrumentation design and generating meaningful inferences from observations are overarching themes connecting the activities.

Lesson 1 – Introduction to Saline Environments & Microbial Halophiles

Environments of differing salinities form on earth. Human activities impact saline environments by altering the salinity and/or introducing pollution. Extremophilic organisms such as Halobacterium salinarum can live in high salinity environments.

Samray L4

Lesson 4: Signal and Noise

Lesson 2 – Design Process-Measuring Wind Speed

his introductory activity has students quickly cycle through a complete design procedure centered on a measuring challenge. Specific aspects of a design procedure, such as defining criteria or evaluating trade-offs, will be practiced again in later instrumentation activities.

Lesson 3 – Inferences from Proxy Variables-Mock AFM

Observation is the skill of recognizing and noting some fact or occurrence in the natural world. Observation includes the act of measuring. To infer is to arrive at a decision or logical conclusion by reasoning from evidence. Scientists use observations to make inferences.

Lesson 5 – Inferring Properties and Calibration

This lesson serves as the conceptual underpinning for understanding how light behavior can be used to measure concentrations with a spectrophotometer. Students should frame their observations around “particles” of light interacting with material in three observable ways: that light can pass through, bounce off, or be taken in by materials.

Lesson 6 – Death Valley Middle Basin Case Study

Measurements of indicator species can be used to make inferences about environmental conditions. Quantity and resolution of a data collection plan is limited by resources. Mine tailings are point sources of heavy metal pollution.

Contributors: Observing Beyond our Senses: Inquiry Drives Technology

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