Inquiry Based Learning Project

Unit: Science

Driving Question

“What is a scientist?”

Lesson 1: Grabber and Introduction

One 45 minute science class

Introductory Grabber

Students should watch this engaging video to get an idea about what goes on in a scientist's life. It is difficult to find an effective grabber without changing the perceptions they already hold, and skewing the purpose of the culminating activity. However, this video is short and should get them excited to learn more about scientists.

Introduce the Central Question

“What does a scientist doing science look like?”


In this lesson, students draw their idea of "a scientist doing science." The exercise surfaces students' prior understandings of the nature of science and the demographics of scientists. It serves as a launching point for discovering that students, in fact, can be scientists. The definition of a scientist is an expert in science, especially one of the physical or natural sciences. Scientists learn about the world through planned and carefully conducted processes of inquiry. There are many fields that a scientist can go into. However, most students views of what scientists look like and how they engage in science are often narrow and exclusive, reflecting stereotypes of science and scientists that have existed for decades. We will expect most students to draw a stereotypical scientist who may be white, male, working independently in a lab, and usually with test tubes. A typical drawing is an “Albert Einstein” looking scientist, with crazy hair. Soon, the students will learn that scientists are everyday people. They are just like me and you. Not every one of them is a genius. Anyone who inquires about the natural world and asks questions is a scientist. We are all scientists.

Culminating Activity


Students will:

  • Identify and analyze the various roles of scientists in society

  • Clearly express their ideas about scientists clearly

  • Gain a sense of self-efficacy with science

  • Prepare them for future science lessons/experiments in class

Distribute the necessary materials: a piece of paper and coloring utensils (pencils, crayons, markers). Before giving instructions, ensure the students understand that this is an independent drawing activity and you do not want them sharing thoughts and ideas, in order for this to be an authentic experience. Then, have students draw what they think a scientist would look like, and explain why they think he/she would look like this. Have them include objects in their environment and label them. Drawing, specifically, is a useful tool because it allows students who may not be ready or able to communicate complex ideas in writing or speech (K-2) to communicate their beliefs about science. Give them about 10 minutes to draw. Then, allow about 5 minutes for the students to have a “gallery walk” around the classroom to observe other students’ opinions. To spark some further thoughts, here are some good questions to ask them when they return to their seat:

Stand if your scientist was an adult.

Stand if your scientist was a boy.

Stand if your scientist has a white coat or bottles.

Finally, have the student grab a partner and allow about 10 more minutes to make a chart of their drawings’ similarities and differences. Then, assess their charts with these open discussion questions:

Why did so many of our drawings have bottles or microscopes?

Why did so many of us draw adults?

Can kids be scientists?

After they think, pair, share, it would also be a good idea to illustrate what you think a scientist looks like on the board. Tell them that their drawings look great BUT that is not what a scientist looks like. As a class, discuss how kids can be scientists. How have they already acted like scientists in school or during the summer? What characteristics do they share with scientists already? What have students realized about scientists? How have they adjusted their idea of who scientists are during this lesson? Tell students that during the year they will all be scientists. Every time they ask a curious question, use their senses, or learn something new, they are being scientists! Finally, hand out one more clean sheet of paper and have the students redraw their new idea of what a scientist would look like. The goal here is for them to draw pictures of themselves, and write why they, themselves, are a scientist. “I am a scientist because            !” After they are done drawing, have them explain what they changed about their scientist and why.

Example Drawings


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