Science vs. Engineering

I have read a couple of article lately exploring the difference between science and engineering and how to walk that line as we design inquiry labs. I loved this line from The Science Teacher in an article called Science and Engineering.

Explore and apply: Instructional design should involve labs in which students first explore a concept by studying the relationships between causes and effects (Marek, Maier, and McCann 2008). Once students have developed an understanding of how important variables affect an experimental situation, they can be challenged to use the engineering model and apply their newly formed conceptual understanding to generate a product or maximize an output. In this manner, the science model is employed early on in the exploration phase of the lesson, and the engineering model is used in a subsequent phase of the lesson as an application of student understanding.

I am going to try to add this distinction into my inquiry design. I find that is tend towards engineering experiments in physics class because the have definite easy to describe goals. Even if I design the inquiry around a big engineering question I should always ask myself: where in this unit is the science inquiry?

The whole article is worth a read, sorry it is not free on the internet.

Have you found any other useful distinctions between science and engineering? Do you have a checklist of that you go through when designing an inquiry?

David Hestenes, 1987

David Hestenes, 1987

As awareness of a national crisis in science education has increased recently, substantial federal funds have been allocated to cope with the crises on the secondary level. However, little of this is directed toward significant pedagogical research, and much of it promotes a reactionary "back-to-basics" approach. I am not alone in the dour prediction that the main result of this movement will be more bad science teaching and in the opinion that substantial pedagogical research will be essential to a more salutary outcome.

from: Toward a modeling theory of physics instruction. Am. J. Phys. 55 (5), May 1987, pp 440-454.

Science Probes and Digital Microscopes

On Fri, Oct 1, 2010 at 8:24 AM, Reece wrote:
I'm in the process of trying to buy peripherals for teachers and students to use now that we are in the second year/phase of our one-to-one macbook program; anyone have some science probes or microscopes they can recommend for using with macbooks?  Or any other peripherals in any subject for that matter?

I recommend:
GoMotion (physics)
GoTemp (Chem, Physics, Bio)
Moticam (a camera that attaches to a regular microscope)

Wetland Scavenger Hunt

Here is the lesson I did in Environmental Science this week. I liked it but I also thought I should put it out for comment, because it did not work exactly as planned. My thoughts in no particular order:

  • I also wish I had a better way of collecting pictures than Here is a link to the pictures.
  • I had an absent student add the last eight items after the fact for his credit. I really liked some of his ideas.
  • I was happy that I had enough kids with cellphone plans that allowed picture messaging for free that I had students in pairs.
  • My eventual goal is to have students pick a park or place and have them put together these for the parks department so that anyone can go on the scavenger hunts. To do this I need to figure out a public place to post photos and a way of getting the directions to people via text messaging.


Wetland Scavenger Hunt

Find any of these things along the boardwalk through the wetland. Use your phone to take a picture to document your find. Send the picture to with the subject being the category of the find and the text being your team name. First and unique finds will be worth two points each, other finds will be worth one. The best team will get five points of extra credit on this. Everyone else's score will be out of the best score minus five points.


Good Smelling
Bad Smelling
Makes a Quiet Sound
Makes a Loud Sound
Hairy (NOT human)
Animal sign (NOT human)
Webbed footed Bird
Claw footed Bird
An insect that floats
A flying insect
An amphibian
A wetland plant
Something rough
Something smooth
Signs of people
Something changing
standing water
something out of the ordinary/rare
something you've never seen before.
something growing
something rotting/decomposing
some type of poop

Lesson Based On