Is this role for you?
You will want to work directly with students if
By working directly with students, you will be able to make valuable contributions
- you are willing to be flexible and inventive
- you like the satisfaction of seeing immediate results
- you can say "I don't know"
- you are very interested in what researchers and practitioners know about how children
Advice from the field
- modeling scientific inquiry
- sharing your passion for science
- connecting science and technology to the "real" world
- augmenting the science background of the teacher and students
- helping end the stereotype of scientists as "nerds"
Scientists and engineers bring to students experience with
- applications of science
- the process of inquiry
- design technology
- critical and analytical thinking
- access to resources
- strong content knowledge
In the science classroom what this comes down to is that scientists can help support reflective
and critical debriefing of hands-on activities and encourage students to ask and discuss
questions that begin with "How?" "Why?" and "What if?"
In addition, in working with students inside and outside the classroom, scientists put a
personal face on science and help students see why one would choose to do science or to become
scientifically literate. They help debunk stereotypes of who scientists are, what they look
like, and what they do in their professional and personal lives. Scientists can be personal as
well as intellectual role models for students. Scientists can help students understand how they
got to where they are, including how they personally faced and met difficult challenges and
even seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
What do scientists and engineers contribute when working directly with students? They
- help teachers and students feel comfortable saying "I don't know"
- help teachers recognize good questions
- model how scientific questioning has different goals than the usual questions
asked in the classroom
- introduce students to new technologies
- promote inquiry skills and understandings
- promote scientific literacy and an inclination to life-long learning
- help develop a more diverse workforce
Many roles are possible--including mentoring outside of school--but scientists and engineers
MUST be properly prepared, trained, and supported in order to be effective with students.
Preparation must address student diversity, learning theory, teaching methods, age-appropriate
content materials, working effectively with educators, and current education reform issues and
The Do's and Don'ts of working with students
- observe in classrooms first
- work on breaking down the scientific language you use with colleagues
- work closely with teachers to learn pedagogy, to understand the diversity of
students, to get general "reality checks"
- engage students in activities
- treat content as a way to engage students in critical thinking
- strive to become involved on a sustained basis
- take on the role of expert
- be didactic
- assume the classroom has abundant resources or equipment
- expect to be of as much help or influence--at first--as you may have hoped to be; this will develop but gradually
Working Effectively with Students from Sandia National Laboratories' Science Education
In Our Elementary and Secondary Schools: A Guide for Technical Professionals Who Want To Help [Editor's Note:
This link may be temporarily out of order due to "remodeling" at the Sandia National Lab website. ]
- Sharing Science with Children: A Survival Guide for Scientists and Engineers
is a classic favorite from the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science.
- The National Science Education Standards,
Principles and Definitions,
chapters will provide a basic understanding of the goals of K-12 science education.
- Your child's or grandchild's teacher or the teachers at your local school can tell
you which materials and local resources they recommend.
- Great Explorations in Math and Science (GEMS)
are easy to use guides for activities with K-8 students, produced by the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of
California at Berkeley.
- Your professional society. Listed below are some of the best professional society resources for working directly
with K-12 students.