Students participate in NCSE's interactive "I am a Pathogen" activity, exploring how the human body protects against invaders. Photo by Gary Lusk.
When do scientists use models and what kinds of models do scientists make? NCSE Curriculum Field Tester Chandler Missig recently guided her students in exploring the role of modeling in our nature of science lesson set Science is an Inquiry-Based Process.
When asked about inquiry, students may imagine experimentation. However, modeling is an important inquiry tool as well. When analyzing a system, scientists may make a model in order to better understand under what conditions a stable system undergoes change. Science is an Inquiry-Based Process allows students to do just that: better understand the systems of the human body, create models of those systems, and explain under what conditions one system may destabilize another.
Students begin by observing video clips regarding lung transplants as a treatment for COVID-19 patients, developing related questions. Students then consider the role that modeling might play and create a model of the levels of organization in the respiratory system. Next, students become a model themselves, roleplaying aspects of the human immune system in order to better understand how the immune system combats infection. Finally, after creating a model of COVID-19 to understand how it infects cells, students use the original model of the respiratory system and a new model of the immune system to demonstrate what happens during a cytokine storm, resulting in the need for a lung transplant. Throughout the lesson set, students consider the strengths and weaknesses of their models and make recommendations for improving them.
This unit is developed to align with Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectation HS-LS1-2: Develop and use a model to illustrate the hierarchical organization of interacting systems that provide specific functions within multicellular organisms.
Special thanks to Chandler Missig and her students for giving us a peek into Science is an Inquiry-Based Process in action. If you have questions about this or any other lesson set, please reach out to me.
Cari Herndon is a Curriculum Specialist with NCSE's Supporting Teachers program.