Overview: Students will find a scientist whose story excites them on The Plenary, Co.’s “I Am a Scientist” informational posters . Students will then explore the Science News (high school reading level) or Science News Explores (middle school reading level) websites to find a related article about current science, and share their article with the class by creating a graphic or visual summary.

In part one of the activity, students will see that scientists are unique, multidimensional people, just like them. Seeing the great diversity within the scientific community will show students that science is for anyone who has a curiosity about their world. Part two will introduce students to news articles written by Society for Science’s science journalists, revealing science as a discipline that addresses real-world questions and issues.

This activity — designed by Vikki Romanoski, the Science Coordinator at Anne Arundel County Public Schools in Maryland in collaboration with the Society for Science and The Plenary, Co. — is designed for use near the beginning of the school year. But it can be modified and incorporated at any point during the school year.

Directions for teachers:

Part 1
Begin by introducing (or reintroducing) yourself to the class and discussing how and why you became a science teacher. You can include any details about hobbies and interests that you feel comfortable sharing. Then ask students to introduce themselves to their classmates using the prompts provided.

After allowing students to share their answers, direct them to www.iamascientist.info/stories. Ask students to pair up and choose two featured scientists who are most interesting to them, then share out with each other why.

Students can access the scientists’ biographies by clicking on their pictures. Posters may be downloaded and printed for classroom use. Visit the “I Am a Scientist” educator page to learn more about the classroom resources and download posters.

Depending on your students’ reading levels, they may need help defining vocabulary used in the biographies. You can consider using different biographies appropriate for your students.

After time for reading and discussing, have students briefly summarize the profile of each of their chosen scientists in whatever form you decide. Students can create a Post-it note parking lot, share summaries aloud or share comments on a smartboard, for example.

Guide students in discussing the diversity and multidimensional natures of scientists. Scientists are a lot more like students than they may have realized.

Part 2
Ask students to discuss what interests them most about science, either in pairs, small groups or with the full class. Ask them to make connections between their interests and the work of the scientists they summarized in Part 1.

Demonstrate for students how to access Science News at www.sciencenews.org or Science News Explores at www.snexplores.org and how to search for articles. Science News is appropriate for readers grades 9 and up, while Science News Explores is for readers grades 5 and up. Science News Explores also has some Spanish-language versions available. Spanish articles include: “El volcán de Santorini erupciona más cuando baja el nivel del mar,” “Nuevo informe de la ONU sobre el clima: no hay tiempo que perder” and “La nutria soporta el frío, sin un cuerpo grande ni capa de grasa.”

Remember that all students have a different level of comfort with searching online.  You should model the online research process and monitor students to ensure everyone is able to access and navigate the resources before continuing.

Students can also use hard copies of Science News. If you participate in the Science News Learning program, check with your science department chair or media specialist to locate hard copies.

Once ready, ask students to search for and read articles related to a topic that both interests them and one or more of the scientists whose work they summarized in Part 1. Students can do this in small groups, pairs or independently, depending on their interests and abilities.

Ask students to choose one of the articles that addresses a real-world question or issue and create a graphic or visual summary of that article to share with classmates. If you need further support for having students create the graphic or visual summary, see Part 2 of our “Taking notes and creating visual summaries” lesson plan.

Here are a few ideas for sharing graphic or visual summaries with the class:

  • Research “Speed Dating”: Students sit in pairs and have one minute each to share what they found. Once both students have shared, one student in each pair moves to the next desk. Repeat as many times as appropriate.
  • Gallery Walk: Students post their summaries around the room while the other students wander and review the summaries. Every student receives five Post-its to leave comments, questions or ideas next to the summaries.
  • “Elevator Pitch”: Each student has one minute to present a summary “elevator pitch” to the class. The key to an elevator pitch is hooking the audience by making it interesting and being concise.

After sharing out, have students post their graphic or visual summaries somewhere in the physical or virtual classroom where they may be referenced later. The articles students summarized may be seeds for future content-based discussions, science fair projects or