Introduction to Earth Science and The Scientific Method
Welcome to the first week
In this course, you are going to explore the amazing world
around you—discover what makes it tick, and the Universe from which it arose. When you look at the
world outside, what do you see? Do you see an Earth that is constantly in motion and changing? As you
progress through this course, you will see an Earth where mountains are rising, land is sinking, storms of
destruction occur, and islands form from the sea. All of these events are part of the world called Earth
This week, you will take a high-level glance at Earth science, the method that scientists use, the
limitations of science, and what makes for good science or bad science.
Course Text: McConnell, D., Steer, D., Knight, C., Owens, K., & Park, L. (2008).
The good Earth:
Introduction to Earth science
. Boston: McGraw-Hill.
Chapter 1, “Introduction to Earth Science,” (pp. 2–27)
What is Earth Science and why should you study it? To better understand the world around
you, it is helpful to know about the processes that have formed Earth and what changes lie
ahead. This chapter provides a brief overview of Earth Science and the method that scientists
use to study it.
Institute for Inquiry
Inquiry is a means for science, but is not the same as the scientific method. Explore this site to
find out more about inquiry and how it applies to science.
Good science education requires both learning scientific concepts and developing scientific
thinking skills. Inquiry is an approach to learning that involves a process of exploring the natural
or material world, and that leads to asking questions, making discoveries, and testing those
discoveries in the search for new understanding. Inquiry, as it relates to science education,
should mirror as closely as possible the enterprise of doing real science.
The inquiry process
is driven by one’s own curiosity, wonder, interest, or passion to understand
an observation or to solve a problem.
The process begins
when the learner notices something that intrigues, surprises, or stimulates a
question—something that is new, or something that may not make sense in relationship to the
learner's previous experience or current understanding.
The next step
is to take action—through continued observing, raising questions, making
predictions, testing hypotheses, and creating conceptual models.
The learner must find
her or his own pathway through this process. It is rarely a linear
progression, but rather more of a back-and-forth, or cyclical, series of events.
As the process unfolds
more observations and questions emerge, providing for deeper
interaction with the phenomena—and greater potential for further development of understanding.