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Follow a Researcher®: Developing and Using Models

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Follow a Researcher®

Developing and Using Models

Catching up, looking ahead, and more scientific practices

In last week’s video, Lynn described planning and carrying out her investigation as she set out to collect data in the field. In our final video of this expedition, Lynn discusses how she will use those data to help tell the story of the Ross Ice Shelf and its behavior by developing and using models.

First, let’s talk about what we mean by “models.”

Models give us simpler ways to represent complicated situations or phenomena from the real world that we might    not actually be able to see. Scientists use models as tools for “thinking with, making predictions, and making sense of experience.” Models also help scientists develop questions and explanations, and communicate their ideas and understanding to others (NRC, 2011, pp. 56-57). As you can see, models are involved with lots of scientific practices!

Let’s keep in mind that models simply represent and explain “the real thing.” While we might think of a model as a physical replica like a globe used to model the earth, models exist in many different forms.

Some examples are:

  • diagrams,
  • physical replicas,
  • mathematical representations,
  • analogies,
  • mental models,
  • and computer simulations.

It is important to remember that since no model is exactly like the thing that it describes, all models have their merits (things they are good at describing), as well as their limitations (things they aren’t so good at describing).

Investigate the model with Lynn!

Lynn demonstrates how she will be using the GPS data that she gathered to describe how the surface of the ice shelf is moving. If you haven’t had a chance to do the experiment using flubber, download the activity (PDF).

We would love to hear about your investigation! Send us some pictures and let us know what you found out by emailing us at umainefar@maine.edu.

What do you think?

Here are some questions to discuss with your class, or to investigate on your own!

  • What were some of the models used by Lynn in this video? What did they represent? Why is she using more than one source of data?
  • What models have you used before in the classroom? Outside of school?
  • Why are models important for both teaching and learning?
  • What might cause a model to change or be improved over time?

Have more questions?

Thank you so much for joining us!

We are so glad that you took part in Lynn’s journey! We hope that her story has sparked your curiosity and given you an inside look at the life and work of a scientist!

Please stay tuned to our website and Twitter feed in the coming weeks. We will be sharing more videos and pictures from Lynn’s trip to Antarctica!

Finally, we are already planning our expedition for Spring 2018! Be on the lookout for more info and registration details!

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