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Introduction to Inquiry

Activity Description

This activity is an introduction to scientific inquiry, as well as science as a general topic. Often students jump right into a science course without understanding what it means to be a scientist. This activity is designed for the beginning of the unit, and doesn’t need to be done at the beginning of the year. It could be treated as review as well. 

Estimated Time of Activity

1 class period; 45-50 minutes. 

Activity Objectives

The goal of the activity is to get students to start thinking for themselves, instead of accepting everything that is told to them. This is cemented by the density question, where students are given a statement that they then need to disprove and apply to a different situation. 

Universal Design for Learning (Differentiation)

The lesson starts broadly by having students define science based on what they think, and then adds to their knowledge bank. The students will all be provided with the same background on density for the classroom activity, and work individually on interpreting the question, before the class as a whole seeks the solution using an online density simulator. 

Activity Prerequisites (Pre-Activity)

No pre-activity required




Activity Instructions

Do now (10 minutes):    What is science?

                                           Pair up and discuss, modify definition

                                           Discuss as class.

                                                    Put up definitions from 3 sources.

"science". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Merriam-Webster, Inc. Retrieved 2011-10-16. "3 a: knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method b: such knowledge or such a system of knowledge concerned with the physical world and its phenomena"


Scientific inquiry

                (5 minutes)What is a scientist?

  • Scientists are just curious people. Want to understand the world around them. Try to understand the world through experiments and observations, collecting clues about how everything works.
  • Describe what a scientist actually does (if you aren’t a scientist, try finding a clip or two on YouTube.


                (10 minutes) Philosophy v. Science

  • Philosophy = love of knowledge
  • Aristotle says that heavier things fall faster than light things – what’s the problem with this statement (what is he basing it on)?
  • Galileo performs experiments and finds out that weight doesn’t affect the rate of falling – is this credible?
  • Do an experiment for the class. Hold up two sheets of paper and ask them if they appear identical (volunteers can verify if they want). Ask, if heavier things fall faster, than what will happen with these two sheets? (should get majority assumption they will fall at the same speed). After asking but before dropping crumple one sheet. When they fall ask which fell fastest (crumpled). This is an example of why we need to do experiments and not just philosophize, as well as why we need to do numerous experiments to come up with a consensus.

(15 minutes)Problem: Which is more dense, wood or rock?

  • Density = Mass/Volume
  • 1000 g= 1 kg
  • 1 liter = 1000 ml
  • 1000 liters = 1 m^3
  • 1 ml = 1 cm^3
  • 1 cm^3 = 1 000 000 m^3
  • Have students team up and use the scientific method to devise a plan to figure out which is more dense
  • Work as a class to figure out the method
  • Use the simulator to see which one is more dense 

NYS/CCL Standards (Content Knowledge, IAD)





Assessment is informal; based more on the involvement of the students and participation by them. The open-ended questions such as ‘what is science’ act as prompts, and adequate responses from students will vary. The second part of the activity may be assessed based on the hypothesis of the student, but a greater accomplishment will come in follow–up questions by the teacher regarding the simulation performed to determine the response to the hypotheses generated in class. 


No formal assignments. If you choose, the crossword may be used as an assignment. 

Instructor’s Notes

Also included is a crossword puzzle that may be done as a more traditional homework assignment. Besides the crossword, students could be required to come up with proper definitions of the answers in the crossword.