Guiding Questions: What are the guiding questions for this lesson?
What is science?
What is pseudoscience?
What do you need to look for to help you determine if something is science or pseudoscience?
Introduction: How will the teacher inform students of the intent of the lesson? How will students understand or develop an investigable question?
Introduce the word "pseudoscience".
(You may have to break down the word "pseudoscience" or give another "pseudo"; word like "pseudonym" to help the students. Then, you could ask: What would make science "fake"?)
Give set of cards to students and tell them to sort the cards into two groups: "science" and "pseudoscience". After all the groups sort the cards, randomly call on students to share groups' answers and discuss.
Investigate: What will the teacher do to give students an opportunity to develop, try, revise, and implement their own methods to gather data?
Say: Welcome to Science Court. It is your job today to determine if the claim brought before this court is an example of science or pseudoscience. "Ivory soap is so pure (99.44% pure) that it floats in water!" In your groups, you need to breakdown this statement into parts that you can analyze based on your scientific knowledge and/or experimental testing. Use two separate white wipe boards for the group's data collection. Label one board "science" and the other "pseudoscience". Record on the appropriate white wipe board any evidence (experimental data or scientific knowledge) that supports each.
Ask: What are the key words in this statement that can be examined in order to decide if it is an example of science or pseudoscience?
Students are to be given a piece of Ivory soap and they are to create their own plan of analysis and data collection. See the Materials section of this lesson plan for suggested materials to have available for students to use.
Note to teacher (not to be shared with students but through the use of questions, the students can be guided):
The key words that the students should analyze are "pure" and "floats."
The students can place the soap into water and see if it floats. If you provide other brands of soap, they can test those for comparison. Ask: What physical property explains why the Ivory soap can float?
The students can examine the physical appearance of the Ivory soap (and again compare to other soap samples). They should see that it appears more porous. (Ivory soap is whipped - filled with air bubbles that become trapped when it hardens and cures. This causes it to be less dense and float. It floats due to density, not purity.) Ask: Does a substance have to be pure to float? Name a substance that is pure that sinks in water. Name a substance that is a mixture or compound that floats is water.
Ask: Is this soap pure? (Just having the bubbles trapped makes this soap a mixture without knowing the chemical composition or contents. They can also look at the soap packaging for ingredients/contents.)
Analyze: How will the teacher help students determine a way to represent, analyze, and interpret the data they collect?
Additional questions to consider and answer on the white wipe boards:
Who made this claim?
What was the purpose of the claim?
Ask: What is the verdict - is the claim science or pseudoscience?
Randomly call on students to share their groups' verdicts and reasoning.
Closure: What will the teacher do to bring the lesson to a close? How will the students make sense of the investigation?
Direct instruction of science vs. pseudoscience.
Think-Pair-Share: Give each pair of students a summary of an excerpt from the Worlds in Collision. After reading it, the students should compare/contrast what is written with what they remember from Earth Space science to decide if it is an example of science or pseudoscience. Randomly call on students to share their groups' answers.
Note to the teacher: The book is considered a classic piece of pseudoscience. Velikovsky's work was not based on science experiments or evidence; instead it was based on a comparison of mythologies and written histories. Jupiter is not known to have volcanoes - it is a gaseous planet. Comets are icy bodies (like dirty snowballs) that release gas and dust as they travel through space. The composition of Venus is like Earth's (which is one reason it is referred to as Earth's twin) - with a solid rock crust, a liquid rock mantle, and a core. There were many other more serious science errors throughout the book - this was just one sample.
Feedback to Students
Throughout the activity, the teacher is able to assess student learning by viewing the groups' answers written on their white wipe boards. In addition to answering the guiding questions and during activity questions, teachers can ask additional questions based on group responses he/she sees or hears. After the content is taught/clarified (in Closure), student responses to the Think-Pair-Share activity can also be used for assessment
Feedback to Students: Throughout the activity, the teacher is able to assess student learning by viewing the groups' answers written on their white wipe boards. In addition to answering the guiding questions and during activity questions, teachers can ask additional questions based on group responses he/she sees or hears. After the content is taught/clarified (in Closure), student responses to the Think-Pair-Share activity can also be used for assessment
Accommodations & Recommendations
Students with learning needs are working in groups with knowledgeable peers.
Special Materials Needed:
White wipe boards with different colored markers.
Suggested materials for the Investigation activity:
Ivory soap (cut into pieces), other brands of soap (cut into pieces), the packaging/wrappers of the soaps with ingredients listed, magnifying lenses, beakers, graduated cylinders, water, triple beam balances, . . .
See the graphics file in the "Uploaded File Attachments" at the end of this lesson for the Introduction activity's set of cards and the Closure activity's reading summary.