I'm not exactly a scientist...in fact, I barely scraped a B- in high school biology, and that was only because I went in constantly for help from the teacher. But, that aside, I really do love teaching science--in fact, while I may not be good at learning science myself, it's probably my favorite subject to teach. There's just something magical about seeing kids ask questions about nature, conduct hands-on experiments, and grasp for the first time the science behind how things work in the world around them.
During my student teaching experience two years ago, my students loved science. Almost all of them were interested in learning more about the sciences and looked forward to our activities. It was exciting to learn and discover along with them, and so special to watch them become excited about the sciences. You can imagine my disappointment when, last year (my first year teaching), I read a shared reading story about the space program to my kiddos and asked, "Who thinks it would be exciting to be an astronaut?" and NO ONE raised their hands. I was completely taken aback! What, NONE of you thinks that would be cool??? Come on, I could barely make it through basic high school physics and would never seriously consider the career, but you have to admit it'd be pretty awesome! But nope, no interest. Nada.
This year, I am determined to "capture" my students' interests in science right off the bat. I had them do a fun activity called, "Who is a scientist?" that I dreampt up this summer based on bits and pieces of other sciency activities I stumbled upon this summer. I had the students draw a picture of a "scientist" including where they are working and what they're wearing. Not surprisingly, almost every drawing pictured a person wearing a white coat mixing chemicals in a laboratory. Many were "mad scientists," characterized by their fantastic hair styles.
Quote from a student while drawing "mad scientist": "How do you spell, 'Wahahahaha!'" :) amazing. (PICTURES TO COME!!)
Anyways, we talked about the pictures and what they had in common. Then, I showed them a picture of my brother and told them that he's a scientist (he's an aerospace engineer). Obviously he looks nothing like their drawings. I told him that he wears jeans to work, loves xbox and wii, plays hockey, and works mostly at a computer. But he's still a scientist! Then, the students took a science careers "interest survey" that described different career interests in some of the different fields of science. After they had selected the most interesting descriptions, the kiddos got to see which science career matched their interests.
I have to say, it was wonderful to see my students realize that they could be scientists too. It is heartbreaking to me when minority students or female students see certain careers as being completely out of their element. I wanted to drive home the idea that anyone can be a scientist, and that scientists do many, many jobs. Do I think they're all going to start doing science projects on the weekends? No. But just like the first step to classroom management is getting them to fall in love with me, the first step to teaching any subject is to get them to fall in love with it. :)