At the heart of an MBI unit is a phenomenon. A scientifically rich, complex phenomena is an occurrence or event that happens/happened in the world.
What makes a good MBI unit anchoring phenomenon?
Good phenomena are specific real world events. The real world context in which the occurrence or event happens is important since it provides complexity and requires students to use a combination of scientific principles (i.e., disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts) coordinated with multiple evidences to explain it. The phenomenon serves as the reason for engaging in an MBI unit and it drives student sense-making and investigations throughout the unit.
How are phenomena used in MBI units?
Complex and puzzling phenomena anchor MBI units by providing a specific context and purpose for students to engage. Further, through engaging in iterative attempts to explain phenomena across an MBI unit, students construct explanations with scientific ideas and evidences that are refined over time with science practices. The complexity of the phenomenon is what creates the need for scientific practices and powerful explanatory ideas (i.e., disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts).
This article in the special issue of The Science Teacher focused on developing and using models reveals how we have thought about the importance of grounding instruction around scientifically rich, often complex natural phenomena and provides some early examples of phenomena we used across a conceptual physics high school course.