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How to build a physicist…

April 9, 2011

A while ago, I remember reading about an experiment where 7th grade students were asked to draw a scientist, and they promptly draw all the stereotypical images os glasses and lab coat waring dorks, like this.

After a visit to Fermilab, and meeting some real scientists, the images the students drew, as well as their descriptions changed dramatically.

I was reminded of this project when my colleague, A discussed an activity she did at a workshop where participants were asked to draw a student, and write down the characteristics of students on a life size drawing.

This, coupled with my thoughts about how to introduce more of the social history of science and habits of scientific thinking got me thinking about how this might be a great way to introduce both of these topics to my students next year.

One of our first exercises could be to draw a life size scientist on butcher paper, and fill in characteristics and habits of scientists just like the “build a student exercise.” Then, as my students learn more about the habits of scientific thinking, explore the history of scientific thinking, and encounter real scientists via discussions on Skype (something else I’m thinking of doing) we could revise this drawing and replace/add new descriptions of a scientist.

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