What is a Scientist?

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SWBAT identify that questioning, observing and discovering new information are what scientists and kid scientists do everyday.

Big Idea

What are Scientists? In this lesson students will explore the idea of research, informational text and science inquiry while learning that they themselves are in fact scientists.

Setting the Stage

National Science Education Standards:

The best way for our young students to learn is by doing.  Young children are naturally curious and this curiosity drives the learning that children experience before even entering school. It is important to allow our students to use this same curiosity and understand that questioning, observing, wondering and discovering are what scientists do all the time. The National Science Education Standards states, "Full inquiry involves asking a simple question , completing an investigation, answering the question, and presenting the results to others." Since science literacy requires that students are actively involved in exploring science in the same way that resembles how scientists go about their everyday work. This lesson allows to students to see that connection to their daily wonderings and observations.

Next Generation Science Standards Connection:

Before diving into our unit on sound this beginning lesson will allow students to explore the work of scientists. They will explore many different things that scientists study and learn that the work we do in first grade is applicable to the work scientists do in the real world.  The Science and Engineering Practices ask children to plan and carry out investigations but before students can dive into that high level of work it is important that they see a connection to their lives and real work of scientists for the work to be meaningful.  While this lesson does not directly use the the Disciplinary Core Ideas it is a building block for the deep learning the students will be doing.

Classroom Structures:

In order to support a high level of student discourse within my science lessons I have assigned two different student partnerships.  Turn and Talk Partners are discourse partners that work together to share the deep thinking that happens throughout the day.  Workshop Partners are partners who are matched together for the purpose of working during our independent times.  In this lesson students will be engaged in both partnerships.

Prior Knowledge Needed:

Students will need experience with using a "toolbox" of different reading strategies as well as a experience with using both illustrations and words to create meaning.

Home-School Connection:

I LOVE involving parents in the learning in my classroom.  This parent letter is both an introduction to our next two units as well as a request for supplies. Many of the items used to teach this unit are recyclable items so I request parent help as well as help from my colleagues in collecting items.


1. Variety of books about scientists

2. science vocabulary

3. Toolbox Reading Strategy Card (Tool for helping students decode tricky words)

4. Science Anecdotal Records

5. Anchor chart labeled, "What is a Scientist?"

6.What Is A Scientist? By Barbara Lehn

7. Worksheet: "I am a Scientist"  

8. Science Journal labels (5163 Avery Labels) - I use blank paper in my journals so my students have more space and freedom to experiment with graphic organizers, illustrations, etc.




5 minutes

I begin this lesson with all my students sitting on the carpet next to their Turn and Talk Partners.  I put on my white lab coat with a magnifying glass in the pocket and my favorite science goggles.  I ask my students Do I look like a scientist? They all yell and laugh!  Then I lean in real close and I ask Why? What is a scientist? They all start to yell out ideas.  Then I ask the children to turn and share their thinking with their turn and talk partner. As they are sharing, I write their responses on my “What is a Scientist?” anchor chart.  After a few minutes I bring the class back together to share what I heard. I noticed the children yell out things like someone who plays with potions, people who study Yellowstone National Park, people who look at volcanoes, etc. Next I show them some of the science vocabulary we will learn in this lesson.


20 minutes

In the classroom I have a basket of books about different types of scientists at each table: Meet Einstein by Mariela Kleiner, S is for Science by Larry Verstraete, You Can Use a Magnifying Glass by Wiley Blevins, What is Science by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, The Watcher by Jane Goodall, What is a Scientist by Barbara Lehn, Live of the Scientists by Kathleen Krull, Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery by Loree Griffin Burnsetc.

Boys and girls, we have some research to do today!  Research is a very important science word. It means you have to find the answer to a big question.  We answered the question, “What is a Scientist” by using our schema. That is stuff you already know about but the answer is so much bigger than the stuff we already know. It is time for us to learn more about scientists.  At you table there is a basket of books that will tell you all about different scientists.  Today I want you to look through these books and see what you can find out. Today I want you to answer our question, “What is a Scientist?”   As you are looking at these books you will see some words under the picture. Those words are called captions and captions will tell you all about the picture.  If you need help with any tricky words you can use your reading Reading Strategy Card to help you.  You may also ask your neighbor or ask me to help as well. 

As my students look through the books I walk around and confer with each student naming and noticing the smart thinking happening. Conferring is the process of listening and recording the work the student or students are doing and then compliment the work. As I listen, I research a teaching point and then work to provide clarification through questioning, modeling and re-teaching.  The students may say I think a scientist is studying these animals.  Or I can see this scientist is looking at leaves on a tree.  As I am conferring I write what I hear on my science recording sheet  for reference later in the lesson. I also use this as a formative assessment that will drive the learning from lesson to lesson.

Mid-Work Teaching Point - If I notice that my students are having a hard time noticing scientists in a book I might recommend they share a book or talk about the book with someone at their table. This can help with ELL students as well because it gives them a scaffold for the language we will be using.


5 minutes

I ask my students to meet me on the carpet and together we can share our new learning. I ask my students to share their thinking with their Turn and Talk Partners.  As they are sharing their thinking I listen into their conversations and take notes on the learning that occurred on my science clipboard.  After the students have a few moments to share their thinking, I share with the students all the new learning I overheard while they were talking.  I share things like scientist study the earth, scientists study birds, scientists study animals, scientists study the planets and stars, etc.


10 minutes

After a minute of sharing I bring the children to attention and say, Boys and girls today you researched scientists and you learned a lot from that research. Look at all the new things we added to our chart.  Today I am going to read you this book called What Is A Scientist? By Barbara Lehn.  

As I read this book my goal is for my students to begin to recognize that they too are scientist.  We add all the things scientists do to our anchor chart.

I conclude by saying, Can you ask questions and answer questions? Can you notice detail? Can you observe? Can you sort, measure or count? Can you think logically and test predictions? Boys and girls did you notice something about what we do and what scientists do? Well, that is because you are also scientists.  A scientist is someone who observes, listens, thinks and researches new information. I better add a very important word to our "What is a Scientist?" chart. Do you know what that word could be?  You are right, YOU!  You are scientists too!


10 minutes

Writing in first grade can be in the form of illustrations, labels, and words.  In science I have my students write in a journal during and/or after every science lesson. In order to get the children into the habit of writing at the end I have a worksheet that will go into their Science Folders as a reminder that they too are scientists.

I hand out a sheet of paper titled “I am a Scientist!" I ask the children to draw a picture of them in the blank area and to label their picture. 

Boys and girls on this paper are four very important words. Those words are "I am a Scientist!" Today I want to you to draw a picture of yourself doing science. You may want to draw goggles, a lab coat or even a magnifying glass. You might want to draw yourself outdoors, inside in our classroom or even at your home.  Remember to draw your hair the correct color, your eyes the right color and your skin.  I don't have any blue children in my classroom so I better not see any blue faces.  Great! Are you ready to draw yourself? Off you go!

At the end of the lesson I introduce their Science Folders. 

This folder is one of your science tools. It will keep all of your precious work safe and sound. Inside of this folder you will find a few things: Your new Science Journal and Fasteners to put important science papers.  Now, it is your turn. Please place your "I am a Scientist!" page into the empty pocket in this folder.