Natural Science Inquiry (UNST 286)


This course introduces the Science in Social Context cluster. Natural Science Inquiry is designed to engage students in scientific inquiries of problems of the sort they might encounter as an attentive citizen. Using case studies and research, the course explores what it means to engage topics "scientifically.” Students conduct scientific investigations using the skills developed in the course, from defining how to go about framing questions, interpreting articles, obtaining data, doing the necessary library research, and arriving at substantiated (thus persuasive) conclusions. Investigations involve the use of collaborative inquiry and take account of the fact that the modern sciences, as well as the questions they address, require teamwork both within and between specific disciplines. Learning in NSI is accomplished through inquiry-based projects on a variety of topics. The successful completion of these projects requires: 1) working independently and collaboratively, 2) using the PSU library and associated databases to access scientific articles, 3) collecting and/or obtaining data, 4) using spreadsheets to organize, analyze, and present data, and 5) interpret, make, and defend knowledge claims through oral and written presentations.


The theme of this cluster is science-in-the-making or the ongoing process of active scientific inquiry - the processes of problem-posing, problem-solving, and persuasion. This thematic emphasis is applied to scientific inquiry in general, to the study of general natural science concepts, and to the analysis of scientific issues in political, economic, social and ethical contexts.

Featured Pathways

Climate Adaptation Management


  • Elementary Education Science
  • Geography
  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • Physics
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Sustainability
  • Women's Studies

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Science in Social Context Cluster Courses

Science in Social Context Learning Goals 

Cluster Coordinator: 
Patrick Edwards Ph.D., Instructor of Environmental Science and Management
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