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MUSE | Earth-Moon-Sun Dynamics | Coures Overview and Materials | Introducing Scientific Models | Course Material 1D: Black Box


instructional notes

student activities


student work examples

teacher reflections

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UNIT 2: Building the EMS Model


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instructor with black boxCourse Material 1D: Black Box

As an introduction to scientific inquiry through modeling, students observe what happens when various amounts of water are poured into a "black box" and propose models to explain their observations. While any "black box" would serve the purpose of this activity, our students make observations of a box (24"x12"x8") that has a funnel in the top inlet tube and a long outlet tube at the bottom. When water is poured into the funnel, students observe that sometimes, water emerges through the outlet tube and sometimes it does not. Also, the amount of water that does emerge is not constant.

A typical pattern of data would be:

Water In (ml) Water Out (ml)
400 0
400 400
400 600
400 400
400 0
400 1000
400 0
400 400
and so forth...

The focus of student work during this material (which typically takes two weeks to complete) is data collection, pattern recognition, and model building. Supplemental student activities, such as a pattern recognition activity and a model reading, are used to provide explicit instruction about individual components of model building and assessment. Successful completion of this material involves:

  • Students collecting data, proposing a model, and testing their model.

  • Students sharing their initial ideas with others and offering criticism to peers.

  • Students preparing and presenting a poster of their final, revised models.


Throughout this material, each student completes several activities and homework assignments (see Student Activities). Additionally, each group prepares and presents a poster of their final black box models.