Northeastern (46th Annual) and North-Central (45th Annual) Joint Meeting (20–22 March 2011)

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 8:30 AM


KISSEL, Richard A., Paleontological Research Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca, NY 14850,

In an increasingly complex world of climate change, energy consumption, and biodiversity loss, scientific literacy is increasingly important to our society. Further, critical to the understanding of science is not only the grasp of pure content—the results of science—but an understanding of the fundamental processes that ultimately lead to that content. The term “nature of science” refers to not only those processes but also the characteristics of scientific knowledge that result from them. As defined, the nature of science can be simplified to explicitly focus on the following components: 1) the difference between observation and inference; 2) the role of creativity and imagination within science; 3) the tentative nature of scientific knowledge, with new discoveries and new ideas leading to necessary shifts or changes in our understanding of the natural world; 4) scientific conclusions are evidence based; and 5) the natural world exists outside of and independent of the human mind, but humankind’s understanding of the natural world—science—is derived from human minds, making science subjective by definition. In addition to presenting Earth science content within formal, informal, and other educational settings, explicitly incorporating the concepts associated with the nature of science into any science activity, program, or exhibition can contribute to the learner’s understanding and grasp of science and, importantly, the very human process behind it. Earth science, in particular, provides a wonderful platform for introducing the nature of science outside of a formal setting. Activities designed with the specific goal of providing both content and insight into the nature of science (such as the Cretaceous Crime Scene and Paper Paleontology activities presented here) open avenues of discussion that step beyond the presentation of pure content, leading to an increased awareness of science as a process and human endeavor.