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Big Era Six: Landscape Unit 6.6

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The Scientific Revolution: What Changed?
1500 - 1800 CE

Why This Unit?

This unit examines the important changes in the theories and practice of science that took place in the 300 or so years centered on the seventeenth century. It is these changes, and their interaction with technology and with ideas about the universe and humans’ place in it, that underlie almost every aspect of our lives today.

Unit Objectives

Upon completing this unit, students will be able to:

1.) Clarify their ideas about the nature of science and identify historical changes in its theory and practice.

2.) Identify, and compare, distinctive characteristics of science during the Middle Ages and during the sixteenth-eighteenth centuries (early modern period).

3.) Describe changes and continuities in science from the tenth through eighteenth centuries; analyze the appropriateness of the label “Scientific Revolution.”

4.) Outline major historical developments that influenced science during the period covered in this unit.

5.) Formulate a hypothesis, identify historical evidence relevant to the hypothesis, and revise it in view of the relevant historical evidence.


Time and Materials

This unit is versatile. The variety and number of activities provided are meant to give teachers the choice to use those most suited to their interests and circumstances. Time taken will vary depending on how many activities are used and how long is spent on each one. Teachers may choose to assign Student Handouts as homework.

If the time available is severely limited, Lessons 1 and 2, which are the core of the unit and can stand alone. They can be minimally covered in three class periods. Lesson 3 can be done in one additional class period.

No materials are needed other than pencil and paper.

Table of Contents

Why this unit?


Unit objectives


Time and materials




The historical context


This unit in the Big Era time line


Prelude to the lessons: What Is Science?


Lesson 1: Was there science before the Scientific Revolution?


Lesson 2: Science comes of  age: was it a revolution?


Lesson 3: What influenced science, and how?


This unit and the Three Essential Questions


This unit and the Seven Key Themes


This unit and the Standards in Historical Thinking




Correlations to national and state standards


Conceptual links to other lessons
Complete Teaching Unit in PDF format


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