Carolina Biological K-8 Curriculum - March 2023

More Brain-Powered Science: Teaching and Learning With Discrepant Events

by: Thomas O'Brien

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• What can a chocolate chip cookie tell us about the Earth’s resources and the importance of environmental conservation?
• How can a clear, colorless spray solution unveil a hidden message on a blank sign?

Author Thomas O’Brien uses these and 20 other inquiry-oriented discrepant events—hands-on explorations or demonstrations in which the outcomes are not what students expect—to challenge students’ preconceived ideas and urge them to critically examine the empirical evidence, draw logical inferences, and skeptically review their initial explanations with their peers. More Brain-Powered Science is the perfect dual-purpose activity book for grade 5–12 science teachers who aim to stimulate and motivate their students while expanding their own scientific understanding. Each activity will help bridge the gap between practice and theory for both students and teachers by relating conclusions to science concepts and pedagogical principles. Speaking directly to teachers, O’Brien writes:

"This book is based on the assumption that just as our students learn science by experiencing, thinking, writing, discussing, and doing phenomena-based science with peers, we need similar experiences to grow as teachers of science. ... Careerlong learning with and from our students and colleagues as we engage with them in interactive, participatory, experiential learning is the hallmark of highly qualified teachers who expect and obtain the MOST from themselves (minds-on science teaching) and their students."

The inquiry-based lessons and more than 80 related extension activities can serve as the framework for professional development collaborations or as a supplement to conventional preservice science teaching methods courses. Each chapter includes an introduction, an explanation of the science and science education concepts addressed, a materials list, teacher debriefing tools, safety notes, and additional internet resources. Whether used in conjunction with O’Brien’s previous book, Brain-Powered Science, or as an independent text, More Brain-Powered Science offers hours of interactive learning for teachers and students alike.

“I like the way this book has simple, inexpensive activities that lead the reader into understanding the bigger picture. This presentation is so unique that I do not think there is another book available that provides the same information in a better way. The resources he offers are a gold mine.”
—Janice Crowley, science department chair, Wichita (Kansas) Collegiate Upper School, and 2009 Siemens National AP Teacher of the Year

“The topics addressed in this volume take on some of the most pressing issues we face in science education and do so in a very approachable way. I see the author’s first volume as a great entrance to the discussion and use of this approach and this volume as a huge step into advanced applications.”

—Michael Jabot, professor of science education, State University of New York at Fredonia College of Education

Table of Contents


About the Author


Science Education Topics

Classroom Safety Practices

Section 1: Welcome Back to Interactive Teaching and Experiential, Participatory Learning

Activity 1 Comeback Cans: Potentially Energize “You CAN Do” Science Attitudes

Activity 2 The Unnatural Nature and Uncommon Sense of Science: The Top 10

Crazy Ideas of Science and Challenges of Learning Science

Section 2: Science as a Unique Way of Knowing: Nature of Science and Scientific Inquiry

Activity 3 Dual-Density Discrepancies: Ice Is Nice and Sugar Is Sweet

Activity 4 Inferences, Inquiry, and Insight: Meaningful “Miss-takes”

Activity 5 Pseudoscience in the News: Preposterous Propositions and Media Mayhem Matters

Activity 6 Scientific Reasoning: Inside, Outside, On, and Beyond the Box

Activity 7 Magic Bus of School Science: “Seeing” What Can’t Be Seen

Activity 8 Reading Between the Lines of the Daily Newspaper: Molecular Magic

Activity 9 Pondering Puzzling Patterns and a Parable Poem

Section 3: Science for All Americans Curriculum Standards

Activity 10 Follow That Star: National Science Education Standards and True North

Activity 11 “Horsing Around”: Curriculum-Instruction-Assessment Problems

Activity 12 Magical Signs of Science: “Basic Indicators” for Student Inquiry

Activity 13 Verifying Vexing Volumes: “Can Be as Easy as Pi” Mathematics

Activity 14 Archimedes, the Syracuse (Sicily) Scientist: Science Rules Balance and Bathtub Basics

Activity 15 Measurements and Molecules Matter: Less Is More and Curriculum “Survival of the Fittest”

Activity 16 Bottle Band Basics: A Pitch for Sound Science

Activity 17 Metric Measurements, Magnitudes, and Mathematics: Connections Matter in Science

Section 4: Science-Technology-Society (STS) and Real-World Science Instruction

Activity 18 Medical Metaphor Mixer: Modeling Infectious Diseases

Activity 19 Cookie Mining: A Food-for-Thought Simulation

Activity 20 Making Sense by Spending Dollars: An Enlightening STS Exploration of CFLs, or How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change the World?

Section 5: Assessment to Inform Learning and Transform Teaching

Activity 21 A Terrible Test That Teaches: Curriculum-Embedded Assessment

Activity 22 Diagnostic Assessment: Discrepant Event or Essential Educational Experiment?

Appendix A

Alternative, Naive, Preinstructional, Pre-scientific, or Prior Conceptions Matter: Misconceptions, or a Rose by Any Other Name Is Still as Sweet (and/or as Thorny)

Appendix B

The S2EE2R Demonstration Analysis Form

Appendix C

Science Content and Process Skills

Research Cited


Download a sample chapter

Grade Levels

Elementary High School Middle School


General Science Informal Education


Type NSTA Press BookPub Date 3/1/2011ISBN 978-1-936137-18-3Stock # PB271X2

NSTA Press produces classroom-ready activities, hands-on approaches to inquiry, relevant professional development, the latest scientific education news and research, assessment and standards-based instruction.

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