Science Surprises: Exploring the Nature of Science

Rated 5.00/5 based on 7 reviews
A text supplement for students in any grade 7-10 science class, it is used with several freely available interactive lessons for a unit on the nature of science (NoS). The unit addresses many of the common misconceptions about NoS. It satisfies virtually all the latest NoS standards (in NGSS, CCSS). It includes strategies for critical and skeptical thinking. Teacher's Guide is also available. More

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About Kurt Flammer

With an MS in zoology, the author taught high school biology for 38 years, "retired" in 1997. He also taught earth science, physical science, life science and computer programming. In 1998, he developed a website for the ENSI program (Evolution and Nature of Science Institutes). The website provides classroom-tested interactive lessons on the nature of science and evolution (including geological age dating). These lessons are freely available for download. In addition, there are many teaching tips and other resources for teaching evolution, the nature of science and related topics. The site continues to be very popular, with upwards of 2,000 hits per month, and more than 800 science teachers on the ENSI listserves. Its lessons are used mostly in high school biology classes as well as many middle school life science classes. They are also used in undergraduate classes and increasingly in AP Biology classes. The textbook "Science Surprises" evolved out of a text supplement the author developed for teaching the nature of science in the 1980s. He has also enjoyed mentoring new science teachers, both directly and online (with the eMSS program out of the UC Santa Cruz New Teacher Center).

The author has published a few articles on teaching evolution and the nature of science:
“The Evolution Solution” in the NABT's "American Biology Teacher" in March, 2006. You can access it easily at . The article details his approach to teaching evolution and NOS that he used successfully for most of his teaching career.

"Chromosome Connections: Compelling Clues to Common Ancestry" in the NABT's "American Biology Teacher" in February, 2013, available at . It uses the visible banded features of chromosomes to reveal different lines of compelling evidence of human ancestry.

"Patterns in Time" in NSTA's "Science Scope" in February, 2011, available at . Engaging lessons for developing a personal time sense for deep time, and the patterns of separate emergence for the major classes of vertebrates over tens of millions of years.

Learn more about Kurt Flammer

Also by This Author


Ray Jones reviewed on March 13, 2015

As a nation, we're not doing a great job of teaching science. Look at the public reaction to science related topics: Climate Change, Genetically Modified Organisms, Vaccinations, Evolution. The problem lies not so much in the presentation of scientific subject matter, but rather in the nature of science itself. We don't spend enough time and effort teaching how science works and what it is supposed to do. Typical teacher preparation programs spend very little time in discussion of what science actually is. Standardized student tests ask very little about the nature of science. How does a science teacher even approach the teaching of what science is? Well, this is where Larry Flammer's wonderful book "Science Surprises" comes in. In very clear, concise, and orderly fashion, the book presents interesting and meaningful lesson plans that lay a solid foundation for understanding science. It covers what science can and cannot do, how scientists question, test, and refine their ideas, and how to evaluate those ideas. Perhaps, most of all, the book presents a path to teach critical thinking.
I had the privilege of teaching with Larry, and I have seen the evolution of this work over the last 40 years. For grades 7 through 12, this is the best presentation on the nature of science and critical thinking that I have seen.
(reviewed 9 months after purchase)
marinebio39 reviewed on Aug. 23, 2014

Larry Flammer is without a doubt one of the finest science educators ever! I should know as he was actually my high school biology teacher some years ago! He inspired me to major in biology in college and to go into education. I have been teaching high school biology for over 20 years now. The amount of false information on the internet, especially on social media, is astounding. Celebrities promoting the autism/ vaccine connections, the pseudosciences of miracle food and nutritional supplements to cure disease, and the claims that all GMOs are dangerous to your health are only a few examples. Oftentimes, students are confused from reading all this stuff and often ask my opinion on such issues. I start the school year out with a lesson on pseudoscience vs. real science and really appreciate many of the lesson plans from the ENSI website that Larry is very involved in. The book "Science Surprises" is a wonderful resource to introduce such topics. I especially appreciate the clear explanations of such topics as the meanings of theory and hypothesis in science. The textbooks have never been adequate in explaining pseudosciences to the students in such a clear and concise manner using many examples the students are familiar with. This book is a great resource to trigger class discussions and debate. Critical thinking skills are very important in the Common Core standards which we have adopted in California and I can think of no better way to begin this than with help from "Science Surprises ". I highly recommend this to all science educators in grades 7-12.
(reviewed 5 months after purchase)
boconnor reviewed on July 31, 2014

After using the excellent Nature of Science activities found on the ENSI website with my 7th grade Life Science students for several years, I was fortunate to be involved in piloting Science Surprises in 2012. My students greatly benefited from the addition of using the thorough and well researched text, expanding their understanding of many crucial topics. Analysis of the pre- and post test data over the last 2 years has clearly proven the efficacy of the program. Having just read the current book, I am thrilled that Larry has adjusted the reading level to make the text extremely accessible to all students. I highly recommend that ALL students experience this essential content using Science Surprises. The enjoyable activities and readings truly motivate students to engage, and the teacher's guide provides clear instruction, making this the perfect start to any science educators school year.
(reviewed 8 days after purchase)
ElizaRayner reviewed on July 31, 2014

I have been teaching biology for over 15 years and like many teachers, I start every school year off with a discussion on the nature of science, how science works, what a hypothesis is, what a scientific theory is, observations vs. inferences in science etc. Textbooks cover this material somewhat but not nearly in enough depth and without any hands on activities. There are so many misconceptions on these topics and there is so much pseudoscience out there that it is critical that we address it. Science Surprises is an excellent way to cover these topics and to make them easily accessible to students. It is detailed and easy to use, including a day by day lesson planner which is very helpful. The activities it links to on the ENSI site are excellent and I have been using many of them for many years. The science surprises text supplement as well as the lessons on ENSI are some of the most valuable resources out there for me as a science teacher.
(reviewed 5 months after purchase)
kvanhoeck reviewed on July 16, 2014

As a high school biology teacher, I have used numerous lessons from the ENSI website over the years. I always try to start out my school year delving into how science works, what science is and isn't, the difference between hypotheses, theories and laws, etc. Larry Flammer has written a very accessible, detailed and easy to use unit on the nature of science. It's written in a student friendly manner and includes current examples of scientific studies and controversies. There is a teacher's guide that is correlated to NGSS and shows which ENSI activities should be used to demonstrate particular ideas about the nature of science. The unit is organized using the 5E learning cycle and includes a day-by-day lesson plan on how to implement the unit. It's all here in one package.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Martin Nickels reviewed on June 29, 2014

Disclaimer (of sorts): I am a colleague of Larry's in the Evolution and Nature of Science Institues (ENSI) whose lessons and labs are still available online at the website listed in Larry's biographical statement above. So, I might be biased, but I really don't think I am in stating that I think this book is an excellent resource for science teachers. Larry has managed to describe both accurately and succinctly the major ideas regarding the nature of science and scientific knowledge that I deem as essential to teaching science effectively. The reality is that almost all of the students that take science classes through college will never become scientists and (depending on the subject) much of the "science" that they learn will change to some extent over their lifetime. But, the nature of the scientific approach to the world and the importance and impact science will have on their lives will only increase. For that reason, Larry's work here focusing on science itself is of immense importance. I could not be happier with the product of Larry's years-long endeavor to improve the teaching of science at the pre-college level. This book is as accessible, practical (with its links to specific ENSI lessons) and accurate as any teacher could want. I know of no other publication available that succeeds as well as this book does.
Martin K. Nickels, Ph.D. June 29, 2014
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Lewis Held, Jr reviewed on June 23, 2014

As a practicing scientist, I can affirm the validity of this book's portrayal of how science works. Mr. Flammer is a seasoned educator, and every page benefits from his skilled expertise. What I like most about it is not its professional quality, nor its didactic utility, nor its accessible clarity, but rather its advocacy of science as fun--not just for nerds, but for everyone! It has the feeling of an amusement park that beckons you to explore. Its style reminds me of Carl Sagan at his best. If ever there were a book to whet a student's appetite for science, this is it!
(reviewed the day of purchase)
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