Expedition 1: Asking Questions

What does it mean to be a scientist?

You might be asking yourself, “What does the work of scientists and engineers look like, and what do they do?” What if I told you that simply by asking this question, you are acting like a scientist? Throughout our journey, we will be getting more familiar with the things that scientists and engineers do. Not only are these practices central to the life of a scientist, but also to your own experiences in the science classroom and beyond. We’ll start by “Asking Questions.”

Science starts with questions…

You probably have some ideas about the work of a scientist, and for many of us, those ideas involve white lab coats, beakers, and Bunsen burners. Though this does describe the work that many scientists do, we hope to add to those ideas by following Charles’ and Kit’s adventure. Despite the various work settings of science, one thing is certain: no matter where science is happening, questions are trying to be answered.

But where do these questions come from, and where do they lead?

Charles’ team wants to know: “What was the climate like 100s of thousands of years ago in Peru and other areas of Central America?” What led to them climbing to remote glaciers in Peru, 4000 miles from the University of Maine?

As Charles explains, thanks to technology today, we are able to gather more information about our world than ever before. This information has scientists to notice changes to the temperature and precipitation conditions on Earth. We can imagine that the initial questions about this must have been something like: Why is it changing? Is it going to keep changing? Has it changed before? How can we find out?

Ever since this moment, scientists have been searching for answers to these questions. However, in the world of science, trying to find answers often leads to new questions. Charles’ and Kit’s research team hopes to add new knowledge that will help contribute to better explanations of how climate has changed in the past, and how it might continue to change in the future.

What do you think?

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

  • When did we notice the climate changing?
  • What are Charles and Kit looking for in the glaciers?
  • What does it have to do with chemistry?
  • How will answering their questions contribute to our understanding of current and future climate?
  • The Science and Engineering Practices of the Next Generation Science Standards* (NGSS) include “Asking Questions (for science) and Defining Problems (for engineering).
  • How are these related to each other?
  • How might scientists have to define problems like engineers, and engineers ask questions like scientists?

Have more questions?

Ask the researchers any time on Twitter!

Don’t miss your chance to tweet with Charles (@UmaineFARRodda) and Kit (@UmaineFARKit) live from Peru each Wednesday at 1:00 PM EST throughout their journey.

Follow the adventure on Twitter (@UMaineFAR)!

Visit the Follow a Researcher® website.

*NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next Generation Science Standards: For States, by States. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.