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The Unifying Science Concepts. The Big Ideas of Science. What are unifying science concepts?. The Vellom book, Chapter 3 reads, “The work of scientists, and the knowledge that results from that work, is characterized by a number of concepts and processes that are universal”.

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the unifying science concepts

The Unifying Science Concepts

The Big Ideas of Science

what are unifying science concepts
What are unifying science concepts?
  • The Vellom book, Chapter 3 reads,

“The work of scientists, and the knowledge that results from that work, is characterized by a number of concepts and processes that are universal”.

what are unifying science concepts1
What are unifying science concepts?
  • So basically…these ideas are universal.
  • They are the “big ideas” of science
  • The universal unifying concepts help students to understand the natural world
five unifying processes
Five Unifying Processes
  • There are 5 “big ideas” that are identified in the National Science Education Standards

- Systems, order, and organization.

- Evidence, models, and explanation.

- Change, constancy, and measurement.

- Evolution and equilibrium.

- Form and function.

systems order and organization
Systems, Order, and Organization
  • Nature is made up of many systems that are related and/or connected in some ways.
  • A system is a whole that is composed of parts arranged in an orderly manner according to some plan or function.
  • Our body makes up a system, the planets around the sun make a (solar) system, and each classroom in our school makes up a system.
  • Children can begin to understand systems by considering the parts that make up a system, the purpose of a system, and the changes that occur in a system.
  • Summary: Nature is composed of many interrelated systems.
  • Digestive System
  • When teaching about the digestive system, I could just teach the parts and move on.
  • This is not good science and does teach the “big idea”
  • Students need to understand how the system works as whole
    • What happens if a part if missing or broken?
    • What happens if a part is damaged?
    • What could damage this system?
evidence models and explanation
Evidence, Models, and Explanation
  • Nature behaves in predictable ways and searching for explanations is one of the most important functions of science.
  • We must teach children how to use evidence and models to develop explanations that help us to understand our world.
  • Explanations – we collect evidence (data) in order to develop explanations
  • Models are used in science to represent other things that might be difficult to see or measure.
  • Models are a difficult concept for young children to grasp.

Summary: Nature is predictable and we can use evidence and models to develop explanations to understand our world.

  • Models – an very important concept of science education
  • Examples of models – phases of the moon (to actually observe this in the classroom it would take a month), plate tectonics (hard impossible to observe), structure of the atom (too small to be seen).
  • Full scale models are great to use of possible – human skeleton, organs, etc.
  • Important to communicate to student how the model relates to the real objects. I have to explain to the students that the model of an atom is just a model…it really doesn’t represent what a real atom looks like.
change constancy and measurement
Change, Constancy, and Measurement
  • The natural world is continually changing and children should be made aware of these changes.
  • Although change occurs, there are many patterns that are repeated constantly over time.
  • Measurements can be used to document changes and consistency over time.
  • Summary: Nature is constantly changing but there are many repeating patterns.
  • Children can be asked to observe changes in the seasons and changes in the position and apparent shape of the moon.
  • The earth rotates every 24 hours, ocean tides come twice a day, and caterpillars develop into butterflies.
evolution and equilibrium
Evolution and Equilibrium
  • All organisms have their own distinctive characteristics and so there is a great deal of diversity in nature.
  • These characteristics are inherited from one generation to another and nature selects the characteristics (adaptations) that provide advantages for survival.
  • While both organisms and their environments change, natural systems tend to be balanced (in equilibrium) over time.
  • Summary: Organisms are diverse and nature selects the characteristics (adaptations) of organisms that provide advantages for survival.
  • Children can quickly come to appreciate the wonderful diversity found in nature and can gradually consider how organisms adapt and change over time.
  • Human origin should not be studied with elementary students.
form and function
Form and Function
  • A relationship usually exists between the form or an object or organism (how it looks, sounds, feels, smells) and the function of the object or organism (what is does).
  • Summary: There is a relationship between the form of an object and it’s function.
  • Children can learn to infer the functions of things by closely observing their forms.
  • For example, they can infer what a mammal eats by observing their teeth, or what a bird eats by examining the structure of their beaks.
how does this relate to teaching
How does this relate to teaching?
  • When planning your lessons, you should always keep the “big ideas” in mind.
  • Start with the GLCE and figure out the “big ideas” that go with your GLCE
    • You can discover this during the digging in process
  • Then write your learning statements and create lessons and activities always keeping the big idea in mind.
how does this relate to teaching1
How does this relate to teaching?
  • You should be able to tie a “big idea” to each lesson or unit you teach.
  • The NorthwestGeorgia Science Education Partnership located at
  • Vellom, R. P. (2008). Teaching elementary science: Designs for inquiry and interaction.