Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions

  • As a K-12 science department, we structure our courses around the following big ideas, which we believe to be the cornerstones of scientific literacy.  The essential questions listed guide our students in exploring these big ideas.

    Systems, Order, and Organization
    1. Can the parts observed be organized into a larger system?
    2. How does a system change when there are changes in its parts?
    3. How do scientists group objects?

    Constancy, Change, and Measurement
    1. Which variables are changing or remaining constant?
    2. Can the agent of change be identified?
    3. What factors affect the rate of change?
    4. How do scientists measure variables?

    Evidence, Models, and Explanation
    1. Does evidence reveal properties or patterns?
    2. What criteria determine the quality of evidence?
    3. How are properties and patterns used in constructing models?
    4. How do models (including cycles) help explain repeating patterns and changing properties?
    5. How are models similar or different from the natural world?

    Form and Function
    1. How does form determine function?
    2. How will changing form affect function?
    3. How and why do changes in form or function occur?
    4. What can happen when form or function do not respond to environmental changes?

    Evolution and Equilibrium
    1. What contributes to stability in an equilibrium system?
    2. What factors cause change in a system over time?
    3. What is the role of diversity in evolution and equilibrium?
    4. How do humans impact their environment? 

    History and Nature of Science

    1. How do scientists think about the world in which they live?
    2. How do scientists design and conduct scientific investigations?
    3. How do scientists respond to new evidence that challenges existing beliefs?
    4. What is the relationship between science and technology and how are both used?
    5. What are the historical and cultural contexts of scientific endeavors and how do they influence each other?

    The first five big ideas contained in the Saint Paul Open School enduring understandings are adapted from the National Science Education Standards (unifying concepts and process).