Science Models, Laws, Mechanisms, and Theories Explain Natural Phenomena

Primary School (K-2)

  • Science uses drawings, sketches, and models as a way to communicate ideas.
  • Science searches for cause and effect relationships to explain natural events.

Elementary School (3-5)

  • Science theories are based on a body of evidence and many tests.
  • Science explanations describe the mechanisms for natural events.

Middle School (6-8)

  • Theories are explanations for observable phenomena.
  • Science theories are based on a body of evidence developed over time.
  • Laws are regularities or mathematical descriptions of natural phenomena.
  • A hypothesis is used by scientists as an idea that may contribute important new knowledge for the evaluation of a scientific theory.
  • The term "theory" as used in science is very different from the common use outside of science.

High School (9-12)

  • Theories and laws provide explanations in science, but theories do not with time become laws or facts.
  • A scientific theory is a substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment and the science community validates each theory before it is accepted. If new evidence is discovered that the theory does not accommodate, the theory is generally modified in light of this new evidence.
  • Models, mechanisms, and explanations collectively serve as tools in the development of a scientific theory.
  • Laws are statements or descriptions of the relationships among observable phenomena.
  • Scientists often use hypotheses to develop and test theories and explanations.

These understandings about the nature of science are found in the practices section of the foundation box on a standards page.

Other Standards That Use This Connection to the Nature of Science:

Middle School