In Social Studies 2211 (History), we are completing a research activity on significant contributions to the Scientific Revolution during the 16th-18th centuries. It’s a way to get students practicing research skills and working collaboratively to not only learn about a scientist, but also discovery why certain developments were “big deals” at the time.
Here’s the activity:
I’ve adapted this from one used by Gonzaga High School in St. John’s, as I worked with teachers from that school when teaching an early version of this unit on innovation and change.
Students start by choosing a scientist and researching aspects of that person’s life, family background, social status, education, etc. Secondly, they move on to detailing the notable discoveries and achievements of their subject. Thirdly, they suggest how the discoveries of this individual helped change the worldview of people at the time. Finally, they consider the lasting impacts of this person’s work and its relevance for the present day.
I’ve requested that students document at least 3 sources of information that they used during their research and these will be presented in an APA citation format, something the Social Studies Department at Gander Collegiate is working on incorporating into all such activities. Being able to properly cite sources and document their research is a vital academic skill, especially for those students who wish to pursue post-secondary studies.
Here are a couple of samples of work I’ve already received from some very creative students:
Reading is a worthwhile pursuit in a number of ways; whether one is gaining new knowledge or being entertained by rich description, or engaging plots, books can help alter our perspectives and improve our lives. Any reader can list such benefits, but as we know the world of science often needs to weigh in on a topic to quantify the positives and make us all certain that what we love to do by impulse or feeling is indeed have a basis in rationality. Emory University, out of Atlanta, has recently completed a study that assesses the effects of reading on the brain, including suggested long term benefits. There are apparently physical impressions made on the body when one reads a novel and is “transported into another world”. The Atlantic has a piece on this, which you an access here.
The big story in the last few days that has gripped me is the recent trial and subsequent imprisonment of a small group of scientists and seismologists in Italy for manslaughter:
The court ruled on Monday that six scientists and one ex-government official were guilty of manslaughter for failing to adequately warn Italians about a deadly 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila, in the Abruzzo region. Each defendant was sentenced to six years in prison.
It seems that the court system in Italy has decided that the scientists are responsible for the 309 deaths and 1,500 injuries caused by the disaster because they did not adequately warn the public that an earthquake was coming. What I find fascinating is that earth science experts around the world have since stated clearly that it is not possible to accurately predict that an earthquake will happen, and while there may have been a risk of such an event occurring, there was no way to state that it would occur, which makes convincing the public much more difficult.
If anything, the scientists may be criticized for a lack of communication with the public about the nature of the event, but even then, is this the responsibility of the scientists themselves or government representatives? And is six years in prison a suitable punishment for any responsibility assumed for what happened? One thing’s for certain, scientists around the world are going to be a lot more careful in their dealings (or lack thereof) with the public in the future.
“I think that the difficulty is that when scientists speak, they like to equivocate,” says Atkinson.
“They say things like, ‘There’s a two per cent chance that there could be a large earthquake, but a 98 per cent chance that there won’t be,’ ” said Atkinson. “And that’s not really what the public wants to hear.
“The public wants the scientists to say there will be one or there won’t be one. And I think it’s hard for the public to understand that a scientist can’t say that.”