Science Visitors

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SWBAT formulate questions about what scientists do, ask scientists the questions and create a summary of what they learn about what scientists do.

Big Idea

Students are expanding their ideas about what science is by talking to a variety of scientists.

Advance Notes

This lesson has several parts. You may want to plan for it over the course of a week or more, depending on the length of your science  blocks. The planning and research can each be a block, as can planning the investigation, and then you will want separate blocks for each visitor and finally you have the follow up drawing conclusions section. 

The second part of preplanning is to find several scientists to visit your classroom. In the visitor section I suggest that you talk to parents and friends, contact local colleges to see if there are graduate students who may be able to share their work face to face or via an internet live site such as SKYPE or Google Hangout. You can also contact local science museums to see if someone from their staff could join you via internet to explain what they do. 

Planning Our Investigation Introduction

10 minutes

The goal of today's lesson is to help students to plan out an investigation into what scientists do, and what tools they use in their jobs. (SP3). I could just give students a set of questions to ask and then invite several scientists to join us face to face or online, but instead I ask students to figure out what they might want to know from scientists to help us understand the jobs they do, and more about what science really is. I am also encouraging students to plan and carry out the investigation as I introduce them to the scientific method.

I begin today by inviting all students to join me on the rug. I say, " I would like anyone wearing green to join me at their circle seats on the rug (my class has assigned seats that change on a weekly basis so they get to know and work with everyone), now if you are wearing orange please join us." I continue until everyone has arrived quietly at the rug.

I begin by saying, "do  you remember how we tried to figure out what science was the other day? Well today I thought we might look into this a little more. I have some friends who are scientists, and maybe you do to and I thought maybe they could help us. Can you think of a way we might get them to help us? Can you raise your hand and give your idea about how we might get them to help us?" I let students give their ideas and hope that someone will suggest that they visit us or we visit them. If they don't, I will talk about their suggestions and then give this one of my own. 

"I think having them visit us would be a great idea. What would we do when they got here?" Again I take suggestions and I hope that someone will suggest having them tell us about their jobs, or asking them questions etc. 

"These are good ideas. I'll bet that you can think of some good questions to ask them already but before we do that, I am going to have you spend a few minutes looking at books about scientists. It will give you even more ideas to share. I would like you all to go back to your seats quietly and then I will tell you about the special books I have." (It is early in the year and students have not seen all of the books in the classroom, so this is a great way to introduce some of the nonfiction books.)

Doing Our Research

15 minutes

"Wow, you all went back so quietly. That is really helpful because now you are ready to listen as I share some very special books with you."

I take out several books such as "What Do Scientists Do" and " I Want to be  Marine Biologist," as well as others about famous scientists such as Marie Curie, Mae Jemison and George Washington Carver. I happen to have these age/grade level appropriate books in my classroom, but you can use any books about scientists that are at the appropriate level. I try to find a variety of science jobs as I choose the books. 

I say to students, "I have all these great books about scientists including…" I want you to look through these books and see what you notice about the scientists in the book. If you think of something you might want to know about the job of a scientist, or about how their job is science, jot it down on a sticky note and keep it on your desk." As I am saying this, I set sticky notes in the center of each group of desks.

"I am going to put some books at each group. You will need to share the books so if you are done reading one book, put it back in the basket so someone else can look at it. We will look at books for about 10 minutes. How many of you think you can look at these books for 15 minutes?  You may read your book alone, or sit on the rug and read with a partner. Don't forget to be thinking of questions you might want to know about what scientists do. Are there any questions?" I pause here and wait to give students a chance to process the directions and ask questions they might have.

During the reading time I circulate around the room, asking students what they are reading, if they have thought of any questions or things they are wondering about science. I keep my discussions with each child brief so I can interact with many students during the ten minutes.

Planning Our Investigation

20 minutes

For me science blocks are short so I begin a new block with this part of the lesson. I invite students to tiptoe like mice to the rug and to find their circle seats without speaking. When everyone is seated I praise them for coming quietly.

"You all looked at some great books about scientists. Now we are going to act a little like scientists ourselves. Being a scientist is a lot like being a detective. What do detectives do?" (I take several suggestions and reinforce that detectives solve mysteries.) "Scientists solve mysteries too. Our mystery is what do scientists do. What might we do now that we have read a little about scientists and we know we have some scientists who are willing to talk to us,  to help us solve the mystery of what scientists do." I hope that students will suggest asking them questions or having them tell us what they do.

I say to students, "you have some good ideas. Can we make it like a special investigation when we meet our scientists? What should we tell them when we invite them to visit us?" Here I am trying to get students to help in planning the investigation (SP3). I know it is the beginning of the year so I do not expect them to really understand this process, but if I can help them to think about what we want to know, what we would do first, second, third, and when we have had our visit, how we draw conclusions, then I am giving them their first experience with planning and carrying out an investigation. 

I record students ideas about what we should do first (when we invite them). We do not pick one idea yet, but look first at what we would want them to do when they arrive, what we would want to do while they are with us, and what we would do before they are all done. In my mind I see us telling the scientists that we want them to share what they do with us when we invite them, then asking them to tell us about their job, and finally asking them our questions, but the lesson may evolve differently because I am asking for student input. 

Once we have a format, (which I hope and will try to direct so that in some way it will include asking questions of the scientists) I ask students, "do you have any questions they would like to ask all of our scientists?" I record the questions on the easel. ( I assume that we will have a large number of questions generated at first). "Wow, we have a lot of questions here. What I would like you to do is listen while I read all of the questions and think of the 2 that you think would help us the most to know what scientists do, and what science is. After I read them once, I will read them again and you will vote for your 2 best questions." I read the questions aloud slowly and then the second time I ask students to close their eyes and vote only twice for their 2 best questions. I record the numbers.

"Ok, we have a few that no one picked so we will eliminate or take those away. We still have a lot of questions here. I think our visitors may only have time for 4 -5 questions. I see that these 7 questions have the most votes. Can anyone tell us why they think one of these questions is better than the others for finding out about what scientists do? We are going to listen to each other's ideas about these questions and then vote one more time to try to find 4 or 5 really good questions." I want students to present a reason for why a question is good and then for other students to critique the reasons they hear (MP3).  

At the end of the discussion I ask students to close their eyes and we vote on the questions again. The top 4 vote getters become our questions.

"Great job thinking about the questions so now we know what we are going to do when we invite our visitors and what they are going to do when they get here. Are you excited about meeting some scientists?" 

"I would like each of you to draw a picture of something that you think has to do with science and we will use these to invite our visitors to come and tell us what they do." I have children return by tables to their seats. I hand out small white paper and ask children to fold it in half like a card. I ask them to make a beautiful science cover for our invitations. 

While students are coloring, I circulate around the room to talk to them about their pictures. This is an informal assessment of what they understand science to be. 

Talking to our visitors

15 minutes

As a teacher you may know people who are scientists. You can contact local colleges and ask for students who may be studying different fields. You can also contact local science museums. They usually have an education coordinator who may be able to join you via Skype, or Google Hang out to tell students about their jobs. Parents are another source of possible scientists who can share with you.

I invite several scientists to visit us either live or via internet connections over the course of the next week. I plan for about 15 minutes for each visit. I have given each scientist the invitation that tells them what the students have said they want to find out (i.e. please come and tell us what your job is and what you do as a scientist and then answer our questions.) The scientists explain their jobs to us and also answers the 4 questions that students chose to ask. I either write down the answers to their questions and the highlights of their job, or video their visit to help us draw conclusions at the end of our set of visits.

As a listener/observer, if the interview seems to be above the students heads in content, or if I see students getting wiggly, I sometime raise a question of my own to bring our visitor back to the level of second graders. I do not know what these questions will be, but I attend to the presentation and try to be aware of things that our visitor might be able to elaborate on that I think will be of interest to the kids, such as "when you mix things together do they usually explode?" "When you are out in the field studying the water under the ground, how do you know where the water is?" "How do you catch the fish you study?"

I suggest 3 - 4 visits from a variety of scientists if possible. 

Drawing Conclusions about What Scientists Do

20 minutes

As a final part of this lesson I want students to draw conclusions about what scientists do and look for similarities and differences across jobs. I start by asking students what they found out about science and the jobs of scientists from our visitors. (If they are having trouble remembering I can use the notes I took to spark their memories.) I write their answers on the board.

I ask students if they see any patterns in the responses of our visitors. Patterns are one of the crosscutting concepts that permeates scientific study. We might notice that all of the scientists use computers or that they all work in a lab, or they all try to find things out. We may also notice that 2 of them use a similar tool, or only 1 of them works outside, etc. 

I tell students that as a final step in a scientific investigation a scientist presents what he/she discovers, much like a detective does when he/she solves a case. I would now like them to present their findings. 

I hand each student a large sheet of drawing paper. I ask them to use words, and drawings to show what they now know about what scientists do and what things can be part of science.

I give students time to complete the drawings while I circulate around to talk to them about their ideas. (about 20 minutes and I have science books on the rug for those who finish more quickly).

At the end of the drawing period, I ask students to partner up and share their findings with a friend. I say, "Now I would like you to share your findings with a friend. Tell them about the things on your science poster. You may find even more things as you talk to your partner. You may add things to your poster if you get other ideas. We will hang our posters out in the hall so everyone in the school can know what scientists do."

Before I hang up the posters, I review them to gain an understanding of what my students know about what science is and what scientists do. These are an informal assessment of student understanding.

After a 5 minute share I ring the bell and tell students, "you have been great scientists yourself this week as you have figured out about what scientists do and what science really is. In our next science lessons we will spend some time trying out different types of science. "