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Depending on how deep the instructor wants to go into the nature of science, the ensuing discussion can go in any number of directions.

To me, the main points are that scientists never get 100% complete information, that other researchers may have information that your group doesn’t have, and that collaboration is a valuable way to get as much of the story as possible.

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We just finished our first week of classes at the University of Oklahoma, and my nonmajors students trooped dutifully into lab on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

To get them talking to each other, one of the icebreaker activities we have done for many years is the “Checks lab,” a lesson on the nature of science.

At that point, the class as a whole comes together to figure out what actually happened to the people writing the checks.

Since each team sees a different subset of the checks, and no one sees them all, students may not agree on what happened and when.

But I wanted to try something new at last week’s Action Center.