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Practising science: Reading the rocks and ecology
Practising science: Reading the rocks and ecology

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Practising science: reading the rocks and ecology


Science is all about knowledge, what we know about the material world and the Universe in which our world is just a microscopic speck. The aim of scientists is to extend the frontiers of this knowledge so that we can understand more about the physical Universe and the life within it.

Scientists acquire knowledge by engaging in four fundamentally important and connected tasks. The first is observation: they observe the natural world and the space beyond it, and both describe and record what they see. Second, they construct hypotheses to explain what they see. Third, they carry out experiments where possible to test their hypotheses. Finally they communicate their findings – to other scientists who will build on this work to extend knowledge still further, to technologists who will devise practical applications for scientific knowledge, and to the general public to raise awareness of scientific discovery. The way in which science is communicated to interested parties is especially important because scientific knowledge is useless if no one else can understand it.

This free course, Practising science: reading the rocks and ecology, introduces some of the background needed for students taking part in the earth science and ecology activities which often take place at science residential schools. At such schools, students normally undertake laboratory and field based activities in earth science, biology, physics and chemistry. You will learn about the types of activities undertaken by students of the earth sciences and ecology, as well as how data is collected and analysed.

Radio 4's ‘The Material World’ broadcast three programmes from Open University Residential Schools, including SXR103 Practising Science. If you'd like to listen to this, go to

In addition, you can visit our Geology Toolkit [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] for an interactive overview of the landscape of the British Isles.

This OpenLearn course provides a sample of Level 1 study in Science.