What is a Scientist? Resources for young children

Child pouring dry sand through funnelWhat do your students think of when you talk about scientists? Is it Albert Einstein with long white hair, a person in a lab coat working with test tubes, or Sid the Science Kid? The work of science inquiry takes place in labs and many other locations. Broaden your students’ appreciation of science by broadening their understanding of the work of scientists. Read biographies, set up imaginative play centers with tools and clothes for working scientists, and invite local scientists of all kinds to visit your class for a short visit to discuss their work. Here are some resources to get you started:

Book resources for scientist biographies

Search the NSTA Recommends book reviews for “scientist” at http://www.nsta.org/recommends/?lid=tnav to find books about Scientists at Work, Extreme Scientists, Frog Scientists, and Scientists Who Made History.

American Library Association, Great Websites for Children: Biographies, http://www.ala.org/gwstemplate.cfm?section=greatwebsites&template=/cfapps/gws/displaysection.cfm&sec=11

Resources about scientists working today

Scientist at Work blog about scientists working today: http://scientistatwork.blogs.nytimes.com/

Read about soils scientists at: http://soils.usda.gov/education/facts/careers.html , and Soil Science Society of America https://www.soils.org/lessons/ask

Cool Careers at Sci4Kids, Agricultural Research Service, http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/kids/CoolCareers/coolestcareers.htm

Resources about inquiry

A Study Guide: Inquiry Science in the Elementary Classroom from the Education Development Center, Inc, http://cse.edc.org/products/inquiryscienceelemclassroom/default.asp (including the graphic on the flow of science inquiry in elementary grades, by Hubert Dyasi and Karen Worth at http://cse.edc.org/products/inquiryscienceelemclassroom/Inquiry.pdf )

University of California Museum of Paleontology. Understanding Science, http://undsci.berkeley.edu/index.php has another useful graphic on “How science works” at http://undsci.berkeley.edu/images/flowchart_35.pdf

National Research Council (NRC). 1996. National science education standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309053269

American Association for the Advancement of Science. 1993. Benchmarks for Science Literacy. See the grade 2 statement of what all students should know and be able to do in science, mathematics, and technology by the end of grade 2. http://www.project2061.org/publications/bsl/online/index.php

Resources on how children’s play supports their learning

Child building with wet sand in sensory tableArticles on Supporting Pretend Play in Early Childhood Research & Practice, on how teacher support of dramatic play (such as pretending to be a veterinarian) can support knowledge and skill development in many curriculum areas, and take a look through the extensive bibliography on play at: http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/v10n2/introduction.html

Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control? By Paul Tough. The New York Times, September 25, 2009. A version of this article appeared in print on September 27, 2009, on page MM31 of the New York edition. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/27/magazine/27tools-t.html?_r=2&ref=magazine

National Association for the Education of Young Children. 2009. Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8.  http://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/PSDAP.pdf

The Serious Need for Play by Melinda Wenner. Scientific American Mind. January 28, 2009 http://www.melindawenner.com/Clips_files/MiQ109Wenn2p.pdf

Expose your children to the work of scientists through books, visiting scientists, fieldtrips, and play. Comment below to add your resources to this list.


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  1. Claudia L. Williams
    Posted September 13, 2010 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    I just want to say that I wholeheartedly agree and think that the implementation of and also encourage role playing during dramatic play it is an excellent idea. I am all for introducing props, and various items to promote the prospects of role playing. Children are always play acting, pretending and imitating the people that inspire them. I also feel that children learn by doing and if they are engaging in positive activities then I am all for it.

  2. alexis
    Posted August 25, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    I want to be a scientist when I grow up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:)

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