I like the idea of focusing on how/why we are studying something in science vs. just studying about something for the sake for just knowing more about something. Again, I think of my seventh and eighth graders from last year where one-third of the students were book learners, self-taught independent learners because they were good readers. The other two-thirds of my students were average readers and would much rather "do" than "read". They were the first one standing up and ready to go when we had a lab or hands-on, observational activity to do.
Giving students a useful reason to find out something is highly motivating! (I think as adults we have that in our life, too. Having a good reason to know something will drive us much more than just knowing for the sake of knowing.)
One example I can think of with my students -- two years ago when I was teaching Life Science, we were studying the human body - DNA, cells, mutations, diseases, and treatments, weighing out treatment side-effects vs. disease effects. My mom was going through serious cancer and treatments at that time. My students knew that, even though I never really brought her up in the discussion. When we began to discuss this topic each one of them seemed to become very engaged in taking in the information. I didn't really know if they would care about something that older people go through, but they did. Later in the year, they also listened intently and showed interested in our discussion on viruses, bacteria, and pneumonia. Their teacher had been out of school for some time with pneumonia! I also find that they like to share about people they know or themselves concerning health issues they may have when we discuss these things. The point being -- if there is a reason to learn something, it's more motivating.