Research and design

Independent Study contract

The word science has a dual meaning. In one sense, it is the process through which we obtain knowledge about reality. In another, it the body of knowledge so obtained. While science classes often capably present the subject in the second sense of the word, it is rare for a science class to achieve any semblance of the first. The actual arc of scientific research has a disjointed and irregular shape, consisting of many false-starts, dead-ends, and punctuated progress. For this reason, it does not mesh well with any standardized school curriculum. What "labs" are conducted in science classes are almost invariably efforts to achieve some already completed goal. Unfortunately, this is as genuinely scientific as would be structuring a class in trailblazing by having students hike already-marked paths. With such a view, the goal of this independent study is to provide guidance for students as they undertake the actual process of scientific research. It will allow them the time and independence to: 1. observe natural phenomena 2. select phenomena which can be controlled and studied in a laboratory environment 3. design experimental methods to perform on such phenomena 4. conduct investigations and collect generalized results 5. devise theoretical models which reasonably account for the experimental results 6. conduct further investigations which test the validity of these theoretical models 7. report on the entire process and summarize the results obtained Students are expected to make weekly progress in their investigations and write full accounts of their results using the appropriate format of an academic journal when each investigation is completed.