Aristotle Leads the Way

These early chapters of Aristotle Leads the Way serve to stimulate the student’s curiosity in astronomy through a mixture of scientific and historical content. Consistent with Mason’s goals for form 3, we can also see the author laying the basis for an understanding of bigger ideas about the nature and culture of science, including possibilities for a complementary relationship between science and religion, the dangers of not recognizing one’s own bias, the dangers of relying on one’s own reason too much, the social and practical impact of fear, the slow building and revealing of knowledge over time, and the intrinsic uncertainty that is inherently part of science. The student who grasps this identity will approach the scientific disciplines in high school (and beyond) with greater maturity, confidence, and discernment.


Another aspect of this preparation for disciplinary study is the understanding of how we divide and classify the disciplines for study. The student should be wholly grounded in nature study and understand that all of science flows from it and intersects through it, but scientists do tend to specialize in various disciplines and those disciplines have developed somewhat independently. In the PNEU, Natural History became a bit more structured in form 3 and continued to share the programme with General Science. Because our disciplines need to include more of the physical sciences (i.e. chemistry, physics, engineering), it makes sense to begin thinking about this in form 3 as Natural History and Physical Science. Aristotle Leads the Way is part of a book series that focuses primarily on physical science. So, what about form 3 Natural History? 

Let’s consider an alternative that might allow us to explore the nature and culture of Natural History when we don’t have a single narrative. We want the student to experience the same building and revealing of knowledge. In essence, the knowledge still will be built in the same sequence and with increasing complexity and maturity even if we are dealing with separate narratives. For example, natural science began with people who noticed the plants and animals around them and attempted to understand and classify them. Our form 3 students can begin their study similarly by learning about the classification, anatomy, and physiology of the plants and animals around them. We would choose books, labs, and field activities that support that initial stage in learning for Natural History. One great change that influenced the direction of natural science was the discovery of fossils and plate tectonics. This discovery meant that scientists needed to consider not only the flora and fauna of the present world, but also those throughout history. Therefore, our form 3 students can take the same next step in the process of building knowledge and understanding the culture that we have in biology today. Another great change that occurred around the same time frame was the discovery of microscopic life. This is not only a next step in the process of building knowledge and culture, but also in moving the student to the smaller and unseen. Finally, continuing that movement to the even smaller and seemingly abstract, is the discovery of DNA. This discovery is certainly the most technically challenging topic to be covered for our form 3 students, represents a bridge that reaches into the past and the future of natural science, and is generally considered to be the central theme of modern biology. It touches every aspect of the field today from agriculture to medicine to ecology. 

Some books that could stimulate curiosity on these topics through a mixture of scientific, historical, and cultural content would be:

    • Breakthrough! How Three People Saved “Blue Babies” and Changed Medicine Forever by Jim Murphy
    • The Girl Who Drew Butterflies by Joyce Sidman
    • Plate Tectonics by Fiona Young-Brown
    • Invincible Microbe by Jim Murphy and Alison Blank
  • How Did We Find Out About Genes? by Isaac Asimov

Now that we have discussed the role played by our literature in form 3 science, we have to turn our attention back to the Things. With Aristotle Leads the Way as our inspiration, we will consider how we might explore the Things of this form 3 lesson. Read the Background section from Changing Constellations. Based on what you read in Aristotle Leads the Way, this Background section, and your stargazing, write an introductory narration in your science notebook. Write what you know about this topic, as well as what you hope to learn. 

When you are finished with your introductory narration, complete the lab using the Materials and Procedure sections at the link. Note that the Weather Underground site has changed. To get to the Star Charts, click on More at the top menu bar, go to the Site Map, then Activities, then Astronomy. An alternative is the website, Interactive Star Charts. In the upper right you will see an information box that says “Location: Unspecified.” Click on “Unspecified” to enter the name of the location, then Update at the bottom. On the page for your city, scroll to Astronomy and select the star chart. When the lab instructs you to save your charts, attach them in your science notebook following the introductory narration. This is the addition of the data into the science notebook and is the next step after the introductory and concluding narrations become natural.

At the completion of the prescribed activity, consider what other questions does it raise? You could also explore the Make it Your Own section to see what other people were curious about. Would you like to investigate any of these questions this week? How would you do that?

When you are finished with your stargazing and analyzing of star charts for the week, write the concluding narration in your science notebook. What did you learn and what on this topic might be questions to explore in the future?

A broadening element of the nature notebooks at this stage in the relationship is the keeping of lists- flowers, birds, insects, or whatever makes sense in your geographical area. Refer back to the booklet “How to Keep a Nature Note-Book” from week 2. Take some time to read through selections from Agnus Drury’s Nature Notebook (in the Appendix), Margaret Deck’s (a teacher in training) Nature Notebook from 1910-1912 and Margaret Hickling’s (a student) Nature Notebook from 1934-1936. Note her lists at the very end of the Notebook. Be sure to click on the 2nd and 3rd link at the bottom of the page that will allow you to see all the pages of the notebook. Begin your own list of birds or flowers or other local possibilities.