Integrative Sciences

The laws of nature are best understood through the lens of integrated sciences. Historically, in-depth scientific study has been conducted in compartmentalized disciplines. However, these divisions diminish our understanding of natural phenomena as products of the interactions between fundamental principles of nature.

An integrated approach provides a unified and powerful way to think about science, while also exposing students to the distinct historical disciplines.

It is important for teachers to learn, revisit, and incorporate these concepts into their classes for several reasons:

  • More colleges and institutions of higher education are adopting this approach to teaching science. Students should be familiar with this way of thinking.
  • Natural phenomena can only be fully explained through integrative sciences. Each discipline may explain an aspect of a phenomenon, but only a global and comprehensive approach will promote complete understanding of the process under study.
  • Interactions between organisms and the physical world are dynamic and complex. Understanding these interactions requires a holistic study — including physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, history, and earth sciences.

Each exploration in this section has several objectives: 1) Revise the fundamentals of science, 2) Integrate and understand these principles, 3) Construct an activity aimed to show understanding of the theory, 4) Create and review lesson plans to be used in middle or high school classrooms.

Adoption of the integrated science approach will likely be slow because it differs from traditional disciplinary models and methods. The Owlet is launching this section beginning with individual topics and lesson plans, but in the future we will present larger thematic units, and hope teachers may consider incorporating these into their curricula.

We’ve highlighted lesson plans that use the integratives sciences approach in the list below.

Potential future topics
Biology and Physics
  • Reproducibility in Biology
  • Orientation, stability and how to keep your bearings.
  • Classical mechanics describes dynamics: How Newton’s equations can also describe exponential approaches to terminal velocity and the growth of bacterial populations
  • Thermodynamics and heat: Understanding chills and fever
  • The motion of fluids and the diffusion of molecules
  • The emergence of spatial patterns during embryonic development: How did the zebra get its stripes?
  • Photonics and natural camouflage: The funky beetles
  • Mechanics: Primates’ arm joints and evolutionary success
  • Diffusion and convection: How the kidney filters nutrients
  • Sound waves and hearing
  • Projectiles and drag: The bioballistics of small jumpers
Physics, Chemistry, and Biology
  • What happened to Mom’s favorite pot?
  • Electromagnetic fields and chemical bonding
  • Orbitals in atoms and chemical bonds in molecules
  • Why is DNA the storekeeper of our genetic information?
  • Light as an electromagnetic wave: microscopy and diffraction
  • Photosynthesis
  • Lipids and their physicochemical properties
  • Membrane fluidity: How do whales dive and surface?
  • Radiation and the Sun, friend or foe?
  • Our bones: Form, strength, and chemistry
  • What do a bridge and your back have in common?
Biology and Chemistry
  • Chemical reactivity and kinetics: Exploration of the structures of proteins and nucleic acids
  • Chemistry, genetics, and anthropology: Got milk?
  • Chemical reactions and the brain: Drug addiction and plasticity
  • Water: The most important molecule that keeps us alive
  • Anemia, malaria, and the sticky patch
  • Oxygen: The giver and taker of life.
  • Metabolism: What sugar should I eat first?
Biology and Math
  • Mathematical analysis of electrical signals: Learning by aplasia
  • Nucleotide analysis: A mutation can be good, neutral, or bad
  • Geometry: Why do bees prefer hexagons?
  • Probability and genetics
  • The strength of numbers: Bacterial communication
  • How the Nautilus got its coiled shell
  • The golden ratio, the pentagon, and the flower leaf arrangement
  • Viruses in geometrical shapes
  • The snowflake: Symmetry and chaos
Biology, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, and Physics
  • Great evolutionary extinctions and Earth geology
  • Climate change: Acid rain, Venus de Milo, and corals
  • Physics of Earth: Why do we keep spinning and translating?
  • Tectonics, climate and Earth: the habitable planet
  • Geomagnetism: Sunburn and spinning
  • Earthquakes, magma, and bacterial life in the deep
  • Oxygen and the great oxidation event
  • CO2 and gases: Are we choking life?
  • Cows, methane, and the Earth’s lungs
  • The first measurement of the Earth’s circumference: Eratosthenes, 275 BC