What is a Scientist?

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SWBAT understand and explain what a scientist is by providing examples of what scientists do.

Big Idea

Many kids have no prior exposure or understanding of science before entering kindergarten. This lesson introduces the concept of science and provides a basic understanding of what the life of a scientist is like.


10 minutes

See what they know! Many kids have no prior exposure or understanding of science before entering kindergarten.

I begin this lesson by asking the kids what they think a scientist is and what a scientist does. As the kids answer the questions, we create a target map.

How to make the target map:

In the center of a piece of chart paper, I draw a circle and write the word, "scientist." As the kids share what they think a scientist is and what they do, I write the key words around the circle with the word scientist in it. I do NOT correct the kids. I write whatever they think. I do not want to influence their thinking in any way. I want them to do the discovering so it is meaningful and personal to them. They will eventually come to the correct understanding on their own.

We go back to the target map at the end of the lesson and cross off any words that we no longer agree with.

Once the kids have exhausted their ideas, I place another circle (large) around all of the words that they used to define a scientist. The map now looks like a target.

I then draw a square around the entire page and in each corner I record where the kids think they know this information from e.g. parents, tv, books, doctors office. 

We quickly review what we have recorded in our circle map.


10 minutes

I read the text, "Solving Science Questions"

Before reading the book, I front load some vocabulary words: observe, record, experiment

As I read the text, I stop a PRE-PLANNED spots in the book. This means I have taken the book home and planned out my open-ended questions using sticky notes on the pages where I want to stop and ask questions. The best questions are the ones that are pre-planned and well thought out.

On the third page, I stop and ask the kids what they have learned so far by listening to the text and looking at the pictures. I call on three to four kids. Since this is an intro to science lesson, it is done very early in the year. Their critical thinking skills are developing in the beginning, but you'll be amazed at how much they grow by the end of the year if you are patient, positive and persistent.

I continue through the text asking questions as we go. After we are finished with the book I ask the kids what they think a scientist does.

The kids usually stress that scientists where white coats (go with it :)) and they like to "play" with stuff. That's a great start!


5 minutes

The exploration for this lesson is done vicariously through the text we read, "Solving Science Questions."

I tell the kids that being a scientist is like being a detective. The scientist has to look for clues through experimenting to find answers to questions they have.

As I read the text, I have the kids explain to their partner and then back to me what is happening in the experiment that is being done in the book. I ask them questions as we read through the book like:

Which bubble bath do you think will make the most bubbles? (all of my kids said, "The expensive one!")

Why do you think she has water?

What do you think she is going to do with the straw?

What do you think she is going to do with the ruler?


I let the kids be as creative as they want to be with their ideas here. They share several ideas of what they think the girl might do with the ruler. One girl suggests that she might stir something with it. Another says that she might measure how much water she fills the glass containers with (I was impressed that she made a connection to measurement the first science lesson of the year!)

I do this because I do not want to limit their thinking, creativity or ability to make connections. Allowing them to hypothesize on their own and then reveal the facts supports science inquiry on a basic level. As I read the text, we find out that she uses the ruler to measure the height and size of the bubbles that each brand made. We acknowledge that while our ideas were good, they were not accurate, but that is okay because that's what trial and error is all about.

I compared trials to attempting to ride a bike without training wheels for the first time and the kids made the connection right away. They understood that each time they rode their bike, they got a little bit closer to riding all by themselves. So it is okay to be wrong in a hypothesis and change that hypothesis along the way.



10 minutes

Here's where I explain exactly how the girl in the book did the experiment like a scientist. We walked through the steps (one of the kids made a connection to the "potions" they had listed on their circle map).

We discovered not only how she did the experiment, but also that her hypothesis was proven incorrect and that is okay because it led her to the correct results and she now knows which bubble bath makes the most bubbles.

I explain to the kids what type of experiments we will be doing over the year and what kind of tools we will be using. I show them the following to get them excited:

magnifying glass (small)

gloves (plastic - check with parents for possible latex allergies)

measuring cup

thermometers (metal)

I explain just a bit about how we might each item throughout the year. My class actually clapped!


5 minutes

After this minor experience of what it's like to be a scientist, I once again go over the circle map with the kids. We cross out anything that we've written on the map that we no longer think applies. In this case, the students wanted to keep everything they had me write the first time.

I have them show me a thumbs up or a thumbs down for each word on the map as I read them. When there is a mix of thumbs up and thumbs down, we have a discussion to decide whether to keep the word or not.

They did, however, have me add a few items to the map: notebook, write, draw, ask a question and tests.

I emphasize that it is okay to change ideas or information if we find it no longer fits; scientists are constantly learning and changing what they do and how they do it.

This process is more important than the actual product because it teaches deductive reasoning; a skill highly utilized by scientists.

We then celebrate that we are going to become scientists together!


5 minutes

I solicit ideas of how we can conduct experiments to learn how to make observations using our five senses. I record their suggestions on chart paper so I can use their ideas to create experiences for them in the future:

Smell cookies and guess what kind they are

Touch different kinds of animals

Eat different kinds of pizza

Go for a walk and listen to stuff outside

Smell jars of stuff and think what it is

See animals and draw them

See flowers and draw them

Feel stuff outside and say how they feel

Eat different kinds of candy and tell your friend what they taste like



5 minutes

This section is another great place to make science and literacy bridge together. Integrating science and literacy is easy to do as it's interesting and motivating to children. A solid technique for integrating science and literacy is the science journal. Even though the kids are only in kindergarten, they are still capable of using a science journal. In the beginning, the kids will be representing their thoughts only in drawings. They will, in time, add words copied from the board and will gradually be able to draw pictures and add words they generate on their own.