To explore the ways science impacts our everyday lives.
As citizens of the 21st century, we live in amazing times. People who are alive today—especially those living in modern, industrialized countries like the United States—have access to a whole range of scientific knowledge and technologies, like washing machines, computers, cell phones, cars, clean drinking water, and good health care, that can make their lives better.
This lesson will help students explore the ways in which science can impact their daily lives from when they wake up in the morning to when they go to bed. In the process, students will come to understand that science is all around them.
Unlike most of our lessons, the activities in this lesson will span across the K-12 grade levels, with suggestions for how you can tailor the lesson to fit the grade level of your students. Along with the activities, you’ll see discussion questions to get your students thinking about how science impacts their lives. Finally, as an assessment activity, students will be asked to make a drawing or a presentation to help demonstrate what they have learned from the lesson. Should you have permission to do so, please consider sharing student responses with AAAS & Science NetLinks via your preferred form of social media using the hashtag #scienceinmylife.
As you go through this lesson with your students, you should help them come to understand how science, mathematics, and technology are a part of their lives every day; older students should also see how these fields have advanced the quality of human existence. Since science itself esteems independent thought, however, the goal should be to help students learn to have balanced views of science, mathematics, and technology, and not to be either uncritically positive or antagonistic of them.
You also should be aware of some of the misconceptions students have about science and technology. In middle school, students typically do not distinguish between an engineering model of experimentation where the goal is to produce a desirable outcome and the scientific model of experimentation where the goal is to understand the relation between causes and effects. High-school students do not distinguish between the roles of science and technology unless explicitly asked to do so. This is evidenced, for example, by students' view that science serves the public interest. More generally, some students believe science affects society in more positive ways than does technology.
Explain to your students that the activities they will do in this lesson will help them to understand how science impacts their lives. To engage students in this lesson, begin by conducting a class discussion about what science is and how it has affected your students’ lives. Some questions you could ask include:
- What comes to mind when you hear the word “science”?
- If I asked you to show me science or tell me about science, what would you say?
- Do you think that science affects your daily life? How?
- How would you define science?
- How has science affected your life?
- Imagine that it is about 150 years ago and you are 10 years old living in a small town in the United States. Think about the scientific knowledge and technology that might be available to you at that time. Can you name some of these things? What do you think your life would have been like? (If students are having trouble coming up with examples, you could get ideas flowing by asking them how they would have traveled to the nearest city or shared urgent news or kept food safe to eat at that time.)
- Now think about what your life is like today. Do you think that science made your life better? In what way?
- What do you think are some limits to science?
- Can you tell me about any scientific discoveries? What are they?
- Look around this room. Do you see things here that were brought about because of science?
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. Encourage your students to explain their answers. The important thing with this discussion is that you want your students to make the connection between their lives and science.
Now have your students watch a video about science in our lives. They should use their Science in My Life student esheet to watch the Science in My Life video. This brief video looks at the many ways science impacts our lives.
Once students have watched the video, hold a class discussion with them to go over their thoughts about the video. Talk about the examples from the video and help students identify the related science. You could ask them questions like:
- What were some of the examples of science you saw in the video?
- Were you surprised about some of the examples you saw in the video? If so, what were they?
- Can you think of other things that are around because of science but weren’t mentioned in the video?
- Did you see anything in this video that has made your life better? How?
- Were you surprised by some of the things you saw in the video that are possible because of science?
- What things surprised you?
- Can you name other areas of your life that have been impacted by science? In what way?
Middle and high school students who are interested in the historical aspects of how science has changed lives over time may find the comparisons as they relate to health care alone illuminating. We offer a comparison between the 1860s and the 21st century on pages 5-8 of the book Your Health: The Science Inside.
In this part of the lesson, students should engage in an activity that will help them identify and understand the role that science has played in their lives.
To begin, break your class up into groups of five students. Then provide students with the Science All Around Me student sheet that is appropriate for their grade level, which has a list of various aspects of a person’s life.
For elementary school students, you may want to do this part as a class activity. If so, write the categories school, home, health, and recreation on your blackboard/whiteboard and ask students to provide the examples of products or things they do for how science has played a role in those categories. Record their examples under the categories. We have provided some examples for you on the Science in My Life teacher sheet. Then, as a class, you could narrow down the choices to ones that students could work on in groups.
For K-2 students, they could discuss how the product or discovery has impacted their lives. They also could talk to their parents or caregivers about the product or discovery to get some more information about it.
For 3-5 students, they should conduct some research on the topic they chose to address the questions on the student sheet:
- What is the item you’re focusing on?
- How does this item fit into your life? How or when do you or someone else use it?
- How was it developed or discovered? Who was involved in that?
- How does science fit into its development or discovery?
For middle and high school students, they could do this activity on their own using the student sheet for their grade level. For these students, they should consider these aspects of a person’s life: school, home, health, daily living, recreation, interests, and community. For each category, students should come up with 3-5 examples of how science has played a role, either in the development of a product they use or as a scientific advancement/discovery that has touched their lives.
Once students have listed their examples, they should narrow down the list to the three most important to them personally. Then they should choose one of these to focus on. They should conduct some research on that topic to address these points on the student sheet:
- Aspect of students’ lives it impacts
- How was it developed/discovered?
- How does science fit into its development or discovery?
Using what they learned about the product or discovery they chose to study, students should now create one of the items listed below to show how that scientific product/discovery has played a role in their lives.
For K-2 students, they should do a drawing of their topic. Once they have finished their drawings, they can share them with the class and explain how the product or discovery has impacted their lives. You also could take the finished drawings and hang them up around the room. The students could then take time to look at and comment on their classmates’ work.
For 3-5 students, they can use the student sheet to create an infographic, poster, or PowerPoint. Once they have finished their projects, they should present them to the class, explaining how the product or discovery has impacted their lives. They should be sure to make good eye contact, speak clearly, and not just read off of their infographics, posters, or PowerPoint slides.
For middle school and high school, they could use their research to develop a PowerPoint presentation or video on the evolution of the object or concept for how science has improved their lives. Students will find recommendations for what to include listed on the student sheet. Depending on the grade of your students, you may wish to add additional criteria, such as minimum length.
Once students have finished creating their PowerPoints or videos, they should present them to the class, explaining how the product or discovery has impacted their lives. They should be sure to make good eye contact, speak clearly, and not just read off of their PowerPoint slides or videos.
Should you have permission to do so, please consider sharing student responses with us via your preferred form of social media using the hashtag #scienceinmylife. You can tag Science NetLinks on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.
Students who are taking part in any of the March for Science events in Washington, D.C., or around the country on April 14 may want to print out the PDF from their student sheet, share the #scienceinmylife item they researched by writing or drawing it on the sheet, and carry it as a sign. Or you could open the activity up to students and teachers throughout the school and hang the responses on a hallway bulletin board to create a gallery in the weeks surrounding the event.
For elementary school students, you could gather a number of items (i.e., phone, plastic straw, Play-Doh, laptop, tablet, plants, etc.) and students could sort or mark, with blue tape or sticky notes, the items that they think have something to do with science or that exist because of science. This could be done as a class.
An idea for upper elementary, to open up their options further and to use the classroom, is for student pairs to write down all the classroom items that exist because of science. Students could share their lists, discussing results and why they chose those items.
For upper levels, you could ask your students to mark or list things in the classroom that would not have existed 150 years ago.
You also could lead your students through these Science NetLinks lessons to help extend the concepts in this lesson:
- Inventions 1: Edison and the Light Bulb
- Inventions 2: The Impact
- Images of Science
- What Do Scientists Do?
- Inventors and Innovators
- Inventions of Necessity: Synthetic Rubber
- Searching for Oil: The Role of Science and Technology
- The Chemistry of Hair Care