Lesson 4.4

How Science Works

Grades: 9-12

Essential Skills: Language Arts, Science

Duration: 1 class period


Students read about how a scientist discovered bee dances and what they mean.


Teacher Preparation:

Other Materials:

1. Check biology textbooks for relevant information about what the scientific method is and how to carry it out.

Information Sheets:

Lesson Plan

Introduction activity (10 minutes)

Discuss with students that science is one way we seek principles of order in our world. Explain that science has two parts: the collection of objective evidence (or data) and the structuring or interpretation of that evidence.

Scientists generate what is called the hypothesis. This is a temporary working explanation based on accumulated fact that is tested or at least testable. The hypothesis may be introduced by a question, or may simply be a statement of cause and effect. The hypothesis is investigated by a series of predictions and experimental investigations. Once tested, if the results contradict the hypothesis then it is either revised or discarded. If the results support the hypothesis then it becomes stronger and more tests are done. But a hypothesis can never be proven with certainty, only supported.

Ask the students to give examples of a hypothesis and a prediction.

Activity 1 Bee dance reading (45 minutes)

Have the students read the Information Sheet 7 and other accounts of honey bee dance communication to familiarize themselves with the mechanics of bee dances. They may even wish to perform a bee dance themselves.

Then have the students read Information Sheet 8 and record their comments. Remind them that the writer was German, and some of the English may be idiosyncratic.

Discuss some of the following questions:

Let the students know that the "dance language" hypothesis itself has been subject to a great deal of controversy. During the mid-1980's Patrick Wells and Adrian Wenner argued that odor and olfaction alone was enough to account for the behavior of the foraging bees.

If your students are advanced enough, you may want to encourage them to read several of the books and articles listed in the bibliography and write their own conclusions. Have the students read and discuss The Dance-Language Controversy by J. L. and C. G. Gould (see Bibliography) and Anatomy of a Controversy by A. M. Wenner and P. H. Wells particularly.


Have the students investigate other instances where the hypothesis has been disproved or where observations could not be supported by experimental evidence. An excellent example is the cold fusion controversy. Almost any science textbook will discuss how experimental evidence discred ited the idea of spontaneous generation.

Words with special meanings:

(for understanding only, not to be tested)

  1. Hypothesis
  2. Scientific method
  3. Prediction


Honey Bee Navigation, by F. C. Dyer and J. L. Gould. Journal article in American Scientist 71(6) page 587, 1983.

The Dancing Bees: an Account of the Life and Senses of the Honey Bee, by K. von Frisch. Published by Methuen and Co, Ltd., London, 1954.

Honey Bee Recruitment: The Dance-Language Controversy, by J. L. Gould. Published in Science, vol. 189, pages 685-693. 1975.

The Honey Bee, by J. L.Gould and C. G. Gould. Chapter 4. The Dance-Language Controversy. Published by Scientific American Library, N.Y.,1988.

Honey Bee Ecology, by T. D. Seeley. Published by Princeton Univ. Press, NJ., 1985.

Do Honey Bees Have A Language? by P. H. Wells and A. M. Wenner. Published in Nature, vol. 241, pages 171-175.

Honey Bee Recruitment to Food Sources: Olfaction or Language? by A. M. Wenner, P.H. Wells and D. L. Johnson. Published in Science, vol. 164, pages 84-86. 1969.

Anatomy of a Controversy, by Adrian Wenner and Patrick H. Wells. Columbia Univ. Press, New York, 1990.

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