Unit 1: Scientific Questions: Inquiry and Methods

What is in the Can?

One afternoon, while finishing up your shift as the stock manager at Circus Supermarket, the store manager tells you that he desperately needs some help with an inventory problem. In the back of the store, he shows you an unmarked, unopened metal can and explains that the owners of the store are threatening to fire him and all his staff if they cannot keep track of the items that they sell. There are no inventory records to trace the origin of the can, so he asks you, the stock manager, to help him figure out what is inside.

There is one catch. He does not want to open the can, just in case there is something expensive inside. Instead, you as the stock manager will ask questions about the can from the store manager; your instructor.

  1. Ask at least two questions:
    • You should first ask at least two questions about the can itself. Your instructor will answer all of the questions you have about the can.
    • Be sure to read the questions posed by your classmates to avoid asking the same questions. This will help further expand the investigation with new questions.
    • You can also request that the store manager do things to the can and then report back with the results. For example, if you would like to ask, “What sounds do you hear when you shake the can?” that can count as one of your questions.
  2. Create your hypothesis.
    • After you have asked at least two questions of your own and have collected additional evidence based on the questions your classmates have provided, you should then develop and post a specific, testable hypothesis about what is in the can.
    • Your hypothesis should include: a) what you believe is in the can, and b) any supporting evidence you collected from the Discussion that led you to that hypothesis.
  3. Respond to classmates and revise your hypothesis.
    • During the week, you should also respond to your classmates’ questions and revise your hypothesis as new pieces of evidence emerge that prove your hypothesis incorrect.

Note: You will be evaluated this week on your investigation of the mysterious can and your use of scientific inquiry, not on the accuracy of your guesses.

Discussion Guidelines:

Participating in Discussion does not necessarily mean posting dozens of times or showing everyone what you know or that you have studied all night. Good discussion participation involves people trying to build on comments from others, and on showing appreciation for others’ contributions. Discussion also involves inviting others to say more about what they are thinking. Below are some specific behavioral examples of strong participation:

  • Ask a question or make a comment showing you are interested in another person’s post and encouraging him or her to elaborate.
  • Post a resource (a reading, Web link, video, quote, etc.) not covered in the Syllabus but adding new information or valuable perspectives to our learning.
  • Make a comment underscoring the link between two people’s posts and make this link explicit in your comment.
  • Make a comment indicating you found another person’s ideas interesting or useful. Be specific as to why this was the case
  • Contribute something that builds on, or springs from, what someone else has posted. Be explicit about the way you are building on the other person’s thoughts.

Please note borrowed material (quotes, summaries, or paraphrases) should make up no more than 10% of the total word count for all written Assignments in this course. All writing in all Assignments must be your own original work, in your own words, and in your own language.

As always, be sure to provide appropriate citations, references, and links to any information you use in this discussion. For help with APA citations, refer to the APA Quick Reference .

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