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Similarities and Differences


Great work so far. By Friday it was more clear to me how inquiry is common to all human understanding/exploration/generation of meaning. Each domain can be characterized by a process of inquiry that continues to give birth to revised and novel stories, some about ourselves, our emotions our hopes and fears, some about the external material world that we live in as well as stories about our emotions, hopes and fears. Many comments to this effect in the online forum as well.



But what about the differences between the Humanities and the Sciences.






Let's Compare and Contrast:

  Humanities/Art/Music Sciences

Ultimate Goal


Understanding, Creation of Meaning Understanding, Creation of Meaning

Proximate Goal


Exploring Human emotions, artifacts and self

Exploring material world, mostly outside of self and human emotions ( some overlap with humanities particularly with cognative sciences).



Self reflection on emotions, human artifacts.

Reflections on subject using controled, repeatable, falsifiable methods.



Priveledges self expression and the subjective.
Priveledges interpretations that minimize subjective points of view. All interpretations are subjective, but science strives for explanitory narritives that remove as much interpretation as possible.


What needs work in the above table? Additions? Subtractions?

Both are story telling, but about different "things". The only difference is the content.


Another difference is the tools each domain primarily use.





What about the similarities and differences between a Bacteria, a Strawberry and a Human?


List as many similarities as you can between a singled-celled Bacteria, a Strawberry and a Human:

  1. - dna or rna (nucleic acids)
  2. - alive
  3. - perform complex chemical rxs
  4. - bounded: membranes, lipid/liquid fats
  5. -  cells
  6. - made of parts
  7. reproduce
  8. need food, source of energy
  9. texture
  10. need water
  11. respire/metabolize - break down energy
  12. rhythms
  13. produce outputs
  14. hold 'em
  15. protein
  16. sugars







double helix

crime scene investigation









Let's isolate and look at the stuff of life. Click - here - for the written procedure for strawberry DNA extraction.


Click - here - for overview, images and a useful metaphor for DNA




joycetheriot's picture

Check out the quote

If you go into the lesson plan that I linked prior to this entry there is a quote on the last page that is interesting in regard to the point of view of the Inquiry Institute. The quote reads as follows:

“The greater the scientist, the more he is impressed with his ignorance of
reality, and the more he realizes that his laws and labels, descriptions
and definitions, are the products of his own thought.
They help him to use the world for purposes of his own devising rather
than understand and explain it.”
joycetheriot's picture

Greetings from the Keystone Summit!


Hi All!!

Looks like you are doing great work! I made a SCRATCH model to highlight your DNA activities.


In addition, I found this lesson plan that you might want to critique for it's inquiry value. (
We are working 8am to 9pm at this Technology Summit and I am very tired but learning a great deal!!
Hope to see you late Thursday,
BTW, where are the Institute films on Serendip, so I can try to use them to make a clip? ( Hey that rhymes)!




jrlewis's picture

The Demarcation Problem

Despite desperately wanting to find a meaningful difference between art and science, I have not yet succeeded.  It is possible to attribute this failure my lack of knowledge about art in terms of history and philosophy.  With enough knowledge, I might be able to come up with a distinction. 

However, I am not sure how useful it would be.  I already know there is an intersection between the methodologies of art and science, darkroom photography is an example.  A conceptual overlap occurs in the concept of symmetry as used in printmaking and chemistry.  The great overarching story of art and science is inquiry.  This leads me to question at what level is differentiation significant? 

Diane OFee-Powers's picture

DNA Inquiry Lesson- Diane, Judith, and Susan

Middle School -Heredity Unit


1-What things do you think you have inherited? Make a list on board.

2- How do you think you have inherited these traits? Make a list on board.

3- Who do you think you inherited these traits from? Make a list on board.

4-What do you think DNA is?- Brainstorm and write on board.



Provide string and various colors of beads 

In lab groups, string one necklace (chromosome)

Necklace= chromosome


Report out how & why they designed their necklaces.

Why are there different lengths & different number of beads ?


Write your own definitions of chromosome and gene.

D AY 2

Share definitions


Go back to opening question #2 list

How do you think you inherited these traits?

Try to get students to the point where they understand that each trait is a gene (bead) and the genes are located on the chromosomes (necklase). Some genes are on the same chromosomes, so all these genes are inherited together.

Each child inherited a (necklace) chromosome from each parent with the genes (beads) that are on that chromosome.


Heredity Activity:

How many students have: Widow's Peak, Attached Ear Lobes, Cleft Chin.

Who shares what traits? Create chart. Are you related?

Possible Extension:

Ask students to survey family to see who else shares traits. Use activity from Prentice Hall Life Science chart & numerical grid.

3rd day

Discuss the students findings & compare with classmates.

In class Inquiry Questions-

What material is a chromosome made from? (DNA)

Guide them to the knowledge that the whole chromosome is made from of DNA.

If that is so.....then what are genes made from?

BRING OUT THE NECKLACES- review that DNA is organized into genes along the chromosome.


1-How can one gene differ from another gene if they are all made out of DNA?

2- Problem- There are only 4 different kinds of DNA, how they can there be 25,000 different genes?

3- Teach Triplet Code.


DNA Extraction from Strawberries

PREDICTION; What do you think the DNA will look like?

Do experiment 


Did the DNA look like you thought it would?

How did it feel?

How do you think the DNA from the strawberry compares to our DNA?

Is it different?/ How would it be different?


The students will understand that the code makes the strawberry's DNA different from our DNA.




Susan Dorfman's picture

Heredity Activity for Diane, Judith, Susan's DNA Inquiry Lesson

Awonderful activity with both qualitative and quantitative components.

Prentice-Hall Life Science text for Middle School, 2008, Chapter 3, pages 82-83.

The activity explores dominant and recessive traits as a way of determining the uniqueness of different combinations of inherited trarits.

The activity can be confined to the students in the class or can be extended to include the families of each student.

At the conclusion of the activity, students can post their results and compare them to the total results posted to the site.

Web Code: ced-3031

Deesha Lockett's picture

DNA Lesson

Group- Deesha, Cynthia, Teresa, Jack

Lesson: DNA

Everything living contains DNA




What is DNA- What are we made of?

Why do we look the way we do?

How do we get DNA?

Experiment (Modification of today's experiment)

DNA Isolation using Strawberries and Mushrooms

Extraction Buffer- Shampoo


What did you notice about the shape?

What did you notice about the color?

Which one made the biggest blob?

Name some other things that have DNA

RecycleJack Marine's picture

Strawberry DNA Fields Forever (FYI- from my blog)

Strawberry Fields (DNA) Forever

OK, Mr. Franklin, I missed your strawberry DNA extraction. It's not that I don't find this an interesting subject, it's just that "something got in the way" this morning. I do wonder if my genes or my influence will have an altering effect on my children's habits and behaviors over the course of their lives. I know that my DNA gave both of my teenagers their flat (large) feet and curled toes. I know that my wife's DNA gave our son Max his blue eyes and our daughter Dakota has my brown eyes. Max has recently found new ways to "harness" his appearance to perpetuate an attractiveness to the opposite sex. Is that because of different body shapes originating from our combined (my wife's and my) DNA?

There is going to be a Mind Body Spirit Expo in Philadelphia in October of this year. Do we get our mind, body and souls(spirit) from how DNA is deposited into our bodies, or do we depend on our environment to create these combinations? How will Max and Dakota's life journeys turn out? Max says that we made a lot of mistakes in the way we raised him, and that who he is- is based on his own sculpting. But I know better and that it will hit him at various juntures in his life's travels that we did have positive influences which are, and will be parts of his mind, body, and spirit.

Susan Dorfman's picture

Arts/Sciences- a never ending dialogue with myself

The free association sessions in this Institute have been useful to me to solidify ideas I have but have not put into words. What differentiates the Arts and the Sciences?? They are both creative. They are both investigative. They both involve the concrete and the abstract. In both, information and technique build upon the previous work of others. Is it just content forming the frame of reference and the "tools of the trade" that are the difference between them? What makes my daughter the artist (art historian and architect) and myself, the scientist (biology and neuroscience). Both of us have been teachers. Our early childhood experiences were dramatically different. Hers were more enriched. The physical and emotional care we received as children were also dramatically different. We share genes but not all genes. We are not the same and yet share many characteristics. OK back to the question. Why do we look at the world with different content and tools? Is it the arrangement of the tendons, ligaments, and muscles in our bodies or the way our neurons have made connections with other neurons in our brains, or both. Is there something about the way we transport oxygen that differs in the left and right hemispheres of our brains? She is after all left handed/ambidexterous and I, definitely right-handed. What allows my right-handed son and I to share a fondness for expressing ourselves in poems? He is not a scienctist but a poet, writer, and businessman. The difference must lie in the "wiring" of our central nervous systems rather than in the anatomy of the muscular system. In that system, we might find the differences in raw athletic talent. But again, we would have to look to the brain to find the differences that underlie a preference for single driven sports like figure skating versus team driven sports like soccer. Both utilize similar skills.

How does all this relate to teaching in an inquiry based classroom? Children need to have the time and freedom to understand what they enjoy and what gives them a feeling of success. A child can enjoy most disciplines if presented in an open environment. My example is my student who earned D, F, D in the three trimesters of Grade 7 Science but announced that science was her favorite subject. The experience opens possibilities for her to investigate a place for herself in science. She needs to have that same experience in the Arts and in the Sciences in order to choose a life path in which she will find pleasure and success.

Teresa Albers's picture


Thanks for this experiment. It was fun and thoroughly engaging. I don't know how it will be received in the Pre-K classroom, but I think I will try. Maybe just using it during the Human Body lessons would be best. I think simply talking about how we are all different because of something in our body called DNA would work. The concept of being different could be illustrated at the gross level by how we all look alike and at the finer level by painting our fingertips. Children could use the magnifier to look at the different patterns of the each other's fingertips. Then once we all agree we are different and it's because of DNA (DNA makes you what you are), I could ask if they want to see some DNA (DNA that makes a strawberry be a strawberry). There we go..... OF course, cross-curricular learning, and if you want it to stick, use a song, I would have to make a song about DNA.

TO the tune of Three Blind Mice:

DNA, DNA it makes me, me

It makes you, you

DNA has all the say

DNA makes me look this way




PS Is the DNA for each strawberry the same?

bronstein's picture

Reflections: On Inquiry, art, science, and strawberries

Before this morning I was quite comfortable with my definition of art, humanities, and science.  Now the differences are not so clear.  There is more gray area.  I will have to digest the discussion and reformat my geshtalts (sp?) over the next few weeks.

The discussion didn't give me any more in the way of methods or ammunition that I could use to have my students go after the material themselves, tho.  I will still have to find these activities myself.  One suggestion that was made that I might be able to implement is to begin each new topic with an inquiry activity . . . and then move ahead in the normal manner after that.  It might be worth a try.

The strawberry DNA extraction was more rewarding than I thought it would be.  The procedure worked easily and as predicted.  It also left us with some questions that we could pursue (for further research, should we wish).  I can see where this would be a simple lab that a bio teacher might run in one period . . . and provide some other material and apparatus for the kids to use to go to the next step.  I'll definitely be checking this out with our bio teachers.

Deesha Lockett's picture

Morning session reflections

Good thought provoking discussion on the Arts/Humanities vs Science.


The experimenting with extracting DNA from a strawberry was a fun learning experience. It was interesting to see the curiosity of what would be the results of mixing the different solutions. This is something that the students would probably want to find out.

Cynthia Henderson's picture


What we are made of is comparable to spittle!She /He spit him /her out has a different connatation now.Cloning is problematic.How and why include the inquiry-based model for teaching this lesson.This is the correct way to spell connotation.Young children could definitely benefit from this approach.
Judith Lucas-Odom's picture

Strawberry DNA Extraction

The strawberry extraction was an excellent inquiry lesson. I really liked the simplicity and ease in which I can apply this to a biology or an environmental lesson. There are so many possible extensions. I think this inquiry was an inquiry in itself. Inquiring minds wanted to know and did! Thanks Wil!
Paul Grobstein's picture

Making sense of inquiry? Sciences/humanites/social sciences/art

Maybe some of our problems with understanding the relation between sciences, humanities, etc have to do with the relations being evolving ones? How about the following as a way to bring things together, both in terms of objective and in terms of time?

Open-ended transactional inquiry = the process of continually generating new understandings, individually and collectively, a common objective of all human creative activities


  • Presume a common internal reality, try and describe the human experience - classical arts
  • Presume a common humanity/relation to the world, try and infer it from human artifacts - classical humanities/social sciences
  • Presume a common external reality independent of humans, try and describe it in a way independent of a human perspective - classical science
  • Explore ways people have tried to describe internal realities and use them to create new ways of doing so - contemporary art
  • Explore ways people have tried to describe a common humanity/relation to the world, notice their context dependences, use them to create new ways of doing so - contemporary humanities
  • Explore ways people have tried to describe a common external reality independent of humans, notice their similarities, differences, and context dependences and use those to create new ways of doing so - contemporary science
  • Deny the significance of a single common internal or external reality/humanity/relation to the world, describe one's own idiosyncratic vision - romantic/anarchistic arts/humanities/social science/science
  • Give up the presumptions of a single common internal or external reality/humanity/relation to the world but make use of the products of such presumptions and the drive to achieve them. Look around at the stories that exist, come up with new ones that in turn will provide the grist for future revisions - future arts/humanities/social science/science
Anne Dalke's picture

clear this up?

I see the parallel structure here--that "classical" forms of inquiry presume a common internal reality, while "contemporary" forms explore those presumptions, acknowledging their context dependencies in order to create new forms of exploration. What isn't clear to me is how "future" forms of inquiry differ from "contemporary" ones.
Paul Grobstein's picture

Inquiry - contemporary and beyond

Thanks for asking. The thought was that having recognized the similarity of needing to give up outmoded presumptions about common internal/external/humanities, we might all recognize as well a similar need to give up outmoded assumptions about an inevitable fragmentation of inquiry into isolated communities that defend their legitimacy by attacking each other.
LuisanaT's picture

Including what I mentioned earlier in this mornings discussion

and more on such an interesting conversation about Art and Science, please take a look at this forum prior to the summer institutes.
Judith Lucas-Odom's picture

Morning Session....About Inquiry

Inquiring minds want to know! The art of inquiry applies to science and to the humanities. The difference can be the content and the tools to get to the product.

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