What Is a Scientist?

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Students will be able to describe what a scientist is and what scientists do by creating explanations and arguments and support these with experiential and observable evidence.

Big Idea

Are your students scientists? Of course they are! This lesson will help them understand what scientists do and how they can be scientists too.


10 minutes

For this portion of the lesson, I read the book, What Is a Scientist by Barbara Lehn.  This story does a wonderful job of introducing the roles of a scientist in very simple, kid friendly terms. 

I gather the students around my big chair.  I say to the students, Yesterday, we talked about what science is.  I am wondering...do you know what a scientist is?  (gather responses from the students) Today, a scientist is someone who works with science.  A scientist does some very important things.  I have a book that tells us what these things are.  It is called, What is a Scientist.  Let's read it now.

I begin reading the book to the students.  I point out the front cover, author, illustrator and title page to help build important literary skills.  As we are reading the book, I make sure to discuss in detail the clarifying statements on the right pages of the book. 

After we finish reading the book, I ask the students if they think they could be a scientist.  We then move over to the Smartboard to continue the lesson.

Direct Instruction

25 minutes

For this portion of the lesson, I use my SmartBoard.  If you have a SmartBoard, the file What Does a Scientist Do? can easily be downloaded and opened.  If you have a different type of interactive whiteboard, you can still use this lesson by opening the file in Smart Notebook Express.  Click here to download. There is also a PDF of the slides so you can recreate this part of the lesson.  Click here to access them:  What Does a Scientist Do PDF.

I gather my students in front of the Smartboard.  I have cards with each student's name printed on.  These cards are used for selecting who will come up to the Smartboard.  This helps me spread response opportunities across my entire classroom and eliminates any unintentional bias.

I open the first slide (SmartBoard Slide 1) with the lesson objective written in "student friendly" terms.  There is a content objective and a language objective to help focus on vocabulary expansion for my English Learners (ELs) to be congruent with SIOP instructional techniques (Click here to learn more about SIOP). I read these objectives aloud for my students.

Content Objective
I can describe what a scientist is and what a scientist does.

Language Objective
I can tell a friend something that a scientist does.

Slide 2:  A scientist works with science.  Anyone can be a scientist.  Do you think that you could be a scientist?

Slide 3:  A scientist asks questions and tries to find different ways to answer them.  What questions might this scientist ask about this plant?  I allow the students time to share their ideas.

Slide 4:  Scientists learn by using their five senses.  Scientists learning by seeing, touching, tasting, listening and smelling.  What senses do you think these scientists are using? I call on students to share what senses they think the scientists might be using.

Slide 5: Scientists notice details.  Look at this tree.  What do you notice?  The students share their predictions about what they think will happen with the balloon.

Slide 6: A scientist makes comparisons by measuring.  Which plant would the scientist say is taller?  I have a student come up to the board and circle the picture of the plant that is taller.

Slide 7: A scientist must count exactly.  Can you help this scientist count the seeds? I invite a student to come up to the board and count the seeds and then record the answer.

Slide 8:  A scientist must look at objects and carefully decide how to sort.  Can you help the scientists sort the leaves?  I invite a student up to the board to sort the leaves by sliding them into one of the boxes.  We discuss how the student sorted the leaves.

Slide 9:    A scientist designs experiments to test predictions.  This scientist is wondering what will happen to white flowers that are put in different colors of water.  What do you think will happen?  I invite the students to share their predictions.

Slide 10:  A scientist thinks logically.  This scientist wants to build a tall tower of blocks.  What block do you think should go on the bottom?  Why?  I invite a student to come up to the board and circle the block that would make the best base.  We discuss why.

Slide 11:  A scientist keeps trying over and over.  This scientist tried to pick up 10 paper clips with the magnet.  Did she do it?  What do you think she should do now?  I invite a student to come up to the board and count the clips.  We talk about what the girl should do now.

Slide 12:  A scientist has fun!!  Does it look like these scientists are having fun?  We discuss why this might be fun activity to do.  

Slide 13:  It is now Turn and Talk Time.  Turn and Talk allows all of my students to practice their language skills and expand their vocabulary.  Every kindergartner is learning to master the English language, so this is time well spent.

I ask them to hold hands with their partners and then hold their hands in the air.  This allows me to check that everyone has a partner.    I then say to them, Tell your neighbor one thing a scientist does. I give them time to talk to their partner and when it is obvious that they have completed their discussion, I call on student to share their response.  After the students have time to share, I call on several student to share for the class.

We then move to our seats for guided practice.

Guided Practice

10 minutes

For this portion of the lesson, you will need Scientists at Work cards included as a PDF with this file  You will want one card per group of students (I do this by table groups).  I print them on a colored printer, laminate for durability and then cut them apart. 

I distribute one card to each group of students.  I say to the students, I have given your table group a picture that shows a student or students doing something that a scientist does.  I want you to talk as a group.  What are the students in the picture doing that shows they are scientists.  Think about all of the things that a scientist does that we just talked about at the SMARTBoard.  Which one of those do you see in the picture?

The students begin talking and I circulate around the room and listen to their discussions  I prompt them as necessary by pointing out things in the pictures.  When they are done, we go around the room and each group shows their picture and shares with the class how the picture shows what a scientist does.  When the students are done sharing, I collect the pictures and we prepare for independent practice. 

This activity supports NGSS Science and Engineering Practices 6 (Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)) and 7 (Engaging in argument from evidence).  The students have to think critically about the pictures and apply what they have learned in this lesson.  They need to take this information and construct explanations and arguments.  This is the "science thinking" that we need to nurture with our students.  Even our youngest learners can be challenged to think like a scientist.



Independent Practice and Informal Assessment

15 minutes

For this part of the lesson you will need copies of What Does a Scientist Do activity sheet for each student, included as a PDF with this lesson.  The students will also need colors or markers.

I distribute the sheet to the students and say to them, We have talked a lot about what scientists do.  I want you to think of one of the things that a scientist does and draw a picture of it.  If you can write what a scientist does, go ahead and write it on the line below the picture.  I can help write your idea down too.

I invite the students to begin drawing their pictures.  See video.  I circulate around the room and assist the students with recording their answers.   The students share their picture with the class when they are done by saying, "A scientist does__________".  This is great practice for developing their "science talk".  This could be explained to the students that scientists need to be able to present ideas and information clearly so they can be shared with others (The pages could also be bound to make a class book).


This example shows a student who made a strong connection to the lesson content.  Work Sample 1.  If you notice, she is "sorting" things. 

This example shows a student who is struggling with the concepts:  Work Sample 2.  The student did identify that "doing experiments" is something a scientist does, but did not really understand what an experiment is.  The pictures show a variety of unrelated things instead of "an experiment".