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Science and Technology/Engineering
Curriculum Framework - Spring 2001

Appendix V

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The Historical and Social Context for Science and Technology/Engineering: Topics for Study

The following list of broad topics is suggested for science and technology/engineering teachers who, together with their colleagues in social studies, history, economics, and other areas of study, may want to help students better understand the historical and social dimensions of science and technology/engineering. Study of these topics helps underline the extent to which scientific debate and technological change play a vital role in our local, regional, national, and international communities. Interested teachers should ensure that these topics are taught at appropriate grade levels and linked to content learning standards.

I. The history of science

For this topic, students might study:

  • Early and different attempts to understand the natural world.
  • Science and technology in the ancient world, e.g., China, Greece.
  • The foundations for modern science in the 17th and 18th centuries.
  • The development of modern science in the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • Key figures, discoveries, and inventions (American and others) during the past four centuries.
  • Major theories that changed humans' view of their place in the world, e.g., the Copernican revolution and Darwin's Theory of Evolution.
  • Social, religious, and economic conditions that supported or inhibited the development of science and technology in various countries over the centuries.

II. The nature of science

For this topic, students might study:

  • Sources of the motivation to understand the natural world.
  • Basis in rational inquiry of observable or hypothesized entities.
  • Development of theories to guide scientific exploration.
  • Major changes in scientific knowledge that stem from new discoveries, new evidence, or better theories that account for anomalies or discrepancies.
  • Need to test theories, elimination of alternative explanations of a phenomenon, and multiple replications of results.
  • Tentativeness of scientific knowledge. Theories are the best we know from the available evidence until contradictory evidence is found.

III. Benefits of science and technology/engineering

For this topic, students might study:

  • Major advances in standards of living in the 19th and 20th century, e.g., communications, transportation.
  • Continuous progress in personal and public health, increasing longevity.
  • Key discoveries and inventions and their beneficial uses, e.g., radium and the X-ray.

IV. Unintended negative effects from uses of science and technology/engineering For this topic, students might study:

  • How government, industry, and/or individuals may be responsible for negative effects (discuss examples here in Massachusetts, the United States, and abroad).
  • Damage to the environment or ecosystems in this country and elsewhere, e.g., from pesticides, clearcutting, dumping of toxic wastes, overfishing, and industrial reliance on soft coal for energy.
  • Some sources of damage or pollution, e.g., human ignorance, overuse or abuse of natural resources.
  • Unanticipated ethical dilemmas, e.g., genetic cloning, contraceptives.

V. How science and technology address negative effects from uses of science and technology/engineering

For this topic, students might study:

  • Examples of products and systems that address negative effects, e.g., automobile emission control devices, ceramics in car glass, biodegradable plastic.
  • Costs and benefits of government regulations.
  • How to balance risk-taking and creative entrepreneurial or academic activity with social, personal, and ethical concerns.

Last Updated: May 1, 2001
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