Being a Scientist - Setting the Stage

Have you started teaching science with your kiddos? I love science and my excitement is contagious when I get in front of my students. But what exactly does a scientist do? What tools do we need to be scientists? And how do we think like scientists? This blog series shares how I start my little scientists off right so the idea of exploring and observing and noticing is with them all year.

I really wanted this introduction to science to be exciting and engaging so I set the stage right away (thanks to Hope King from Elementary Shenanigans for the inspiration!). Our unit started with a mystery box!

It was filled with magnifying glasses and a big book. Hmm... who would be using a magnifying glass? A scientist, of course! Once we took a few minutes to explore with the magnifying glasses, we turned our attention to creating a chart of what a scientist is. What does a scientist do? What tools does s/he use? We paired up and took a few minutes to come up with as many ideas as we could.
Then we came back together and shared our ideas, creating a quick recording of our thoughts. I didn't worry about making this look good, because it would actually serve as a jumping off point for our activity the next day.

When we returned the following day, we reviewed our chart and focused on what ELSE we could add to our ideas. I introduced the word "schema" to my kiddos, talking about the fact that we all had our own ideas of what a scientist is, and now we would be adding/changing information in the "file cabinet" in our minds. We read through a great big book called, "Being a Scientist." This is where we added new science vocabulary of observe, classify, measure and communicate. (I chose just a few terms I knew we would be using often through the year.) We reviewed the definition of each word and added a movement so we could remember it. For the word "observe," we made circles like binoculars around our eyes. "Measure" became stretching our arms out wide, as if we were showing how long something was. For "classify" we pantomimed putting things in different piles. And finally, "communicate" was a mix of pretending to talk and write. We practiced these motions and added a key word to each vocabulary card as well: classify = sort; observe = look, communicate = explain. (We didn't add one to "measure" because my kiddos said they really were sure what that meant.  Our completed chart looked like this:
Now it was time to see if we could apply the terms we just learned. Day 2 started with another addition to the mystery box - goggles! There were also 4 signs to hang up, and of course, another book! I hung one sign in each of the four corners of our room.

Each student was given a card that had something a scientist used, something a scientist did, or something a scientist said. First, everyone read the card themselves and thought about which word their card was an example of. They signaled with a thumbs up once they were sure of their idea. Next, we paired up and read our card to someone else, explaining our thinking. We talked with each other and made sure we both agreed on which card each of us had an example of. Finally, it was time to move! On the count of 3, everyone walked to the corner that matched their card. We shared a few outloud, always explaining our thinking. Then we switched cards and moved to a corner again. After 3 or 4 times, I could tell most everyone had a pretty strong grasp of what each of those words meant. We came back to the group and I read another book that's great for an intro to science - What is a Scientist?" (The picture shows the big book we read, too.)

We then took a few minutes to look at and try on our new scientist tool (the goggles from the mystery box) and talk about why we would need safety goggles. The kids were definitely getting excited - something big was coming! If you're looking for my 4 corners game and the scientist charts, they're part of my "Being a Scientist" resource that's available {HERE} in my TpT store.

Now we were ready to put our learning into action! The next day our mystery box contained a TON of stuff! A bag of shells, insects, gram scales and a recording booklet. It was time to classify, observe, measure and communicate, just like a real scientist!

I set up 3 centers in different spots in the room. One was an observation center. Here I placed dead bugs (a big hit!), our class shark (yep, it's real!), and magnifying glasses. Students observed their objects closely and drew a "slow motion" close-up sketch of what they saw, along with a brief sentence or two.

In another center, I placed a basket of shells - all different types, sizes, colors, etc. Students worked to sort some of the shells in different groups of their choosing. They really got creative! We sorted by color, size and shape... but also by type, spiral or spotted, rough or smooth.... one kiddo even chose to do "can you hear the ocean or not?!"

In the measuring center (with the help of my fantastic IA!) students had their first experience measuring with a gram scale, as well as a centimeter ruler.

In all the centers, the scientists had a booklet page on which to record their findings. A quick share after each rotation and everyone had time to do all 4 scientist activities!

If you're looking for more ways to introduce being a scientist to your kiddos, you can find all these recording sheets, games, activities - and more in my "Being a Scientist" resource. Click on the image to head to my TpT store to check it out.

Although these centers were loads of fun, I wasn't planning on stopping there! Our big end-of-unit activity was coming up and I knew it would be a great way to use everything we had learned. Ready to find out how we put together everything we learned? Head to Part 2: A Simple Experiment.

post signature

1 comment

  1. I'd like to modify these ideas for our study of leaves! Thanks for the ideas!
    Laughter and Consistency


Back to Top