When asked to describe a “scientist,” most children imagine a man with glasses and a white coat working alone in a lab. Words that sometimes come to mind include “Einstein”, “genius,” and, unfortunately, “nerd.” However, the ways in which scientists actually think and act often contradict these stereotypes. Real scientists come from many different backgrounds and approach problems in many ways, often using various forms of what we call the Scientific Method to investigate questions of interest. Furthermore, rather than sitting by themselves in front of a Bunsen burner, scientists frequently collaborate via email, telephone, and professional conferences.
In addition to the above stereotypes, most students mistakenly believe that careers in science are relegated only to the four major courses found in most high schools: biology, chemistry, physics, and Earth science. However, there are literally hundreds of branches of science, ranging from anatomy to zoology – there is literally something for everyone with an interest in science!
One way to get students thinking about various career opportunities in science is to write the name of a major branch, such as Earth science, on the board. Teams of three or four students can create a graphic organizer listing as many sub-topics as they can. For the Earth science example, students might list things like weather (meteorology), rocks (geology), oceans (oceanography), volcanoes (volcanology), earthquakes (seismology), and fossils (paleontology). If no one knows the technical terms for scientists who study these topics, students can use books, encyclopedias, or the Internet in order to find out.
Ask students to choose a branch from those discussed in class and conduct research to write an essay entitled “A Day in the Life of a _____________________.” The essay should include how the scientist might spend the day from the moment he or she arrives at work until it’s time to go home in the evening. Other things students might want to include are educational requirements, travel opportunities, or exciting elements of the job. After individual students share their essays, a game of “I Have, Who Has" can be played to review the various branches of science that were presented.
For other great ideas that deal with various branches of science, try the following lesson plans.
In this lesson students learn about scientists and their occupations. They discuss what companies might hire scientists, and find out what they might do. This can help students start thinking about all the different tasks scientists might have.
Students learn about Earth science, and identify the different branches. They discuss the jobs an Earth scientist might take on. They also discuss the Earth's shape, its dimensions, and composition.
This lesson has students do Internet research to find out about different scientific fields. They discuss different types of scientific work. They compare what they learn in class to the research that is conducted outside the classroom.