science senses

Science Forward approaches science as a lens on the world. Understanding the science senses helps us do that. How so?

What are Science Senses?

In general, science sense is…

Being able to distinguish science from non-science

The ability to recognize how people collect and process facts into knowledge

The ability to recognize how a collection of facts becomes knowledge

Being able to question and evaluate information that is presented as scientific

Being an informed consumer, evaluator, and practitioner of science

More specifically, the skills that help to develop Science Sense fall into three broad categories: Number Sense, Data Sense, and Knowledge Sense. The video and breakdown of the categories below feature just a sample of the kinds of skills that fall into each category. For a one page overview document and skills list, download the PDF using the button below.

The Video

This video introduces the common thread that runs through the Science Forward course: Science Sense.

Science Sense is a set of skills that scientists and scientific thinkers possess that allows them to question and evaluate information presented as scientific. 

These skills include interpreting graphs, making evidence based on arguments, designing experiments, and more.

The video below explains the three categories of Science Sense – Number Sense, Data Sense, and Knowledge Sense – and gives examples of each.

Breaking it down...

Number sense


Scales and orders of magnitude

Estimates and approximations

Measurements and units of measurement

Making a back-of-the-envelope estimate

Data sense


Graphical interpretation and visualization

Sample size, relevance and statistical analysis

Identifying and correcting for bias


Collecting data and recognizing patterns

Knowledge sense


The nature and limits of science and scientific questions

Designing experiments

Scientific ethics and applying science

Communicating science

Having an open mind

Activities & Lesson Plans

Have students work in groups to try to list as many skills in each of the categories as they can before showing them the list or the syllabus. What skills do they already know scientists possess? Which don’t they think of? Are these skills useful anywhere else?

PS – Do you have ideas for activities that teach an understanding of the science senses? Feel free to add them below in the comments section 🙂



Prescod-Weinstein. 2017. Scientists Must Challenge What Makes Studies Scientific. American Scientist. Link.

White and Dennin. 2008. Chapter 3: The Nature of Science, from  Science Appreciation: Introduction to Science Literacy. (Access this OER here.)

Zimmer. 2020. How you should read coronavirus studies, or any science paper. New York Times. Published June 1, 2020. Link.

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