I love it when our How the World Works units come up in the PYP. The learners absolutely adore the opportunity to explore the world around them through a scientific lens. And with the upcoming changes to the PYP structure, allowing more stand-alone inquiries, I can’t wait to see all the thoughts and wonderings they will be asking to inquire into!
Whenever we head into a unit with a strong science focus, I don’t rush into it. Instead, I like to explore what exactly my learners think a scientist is, and how I can help them see that we are all scientists, all the time. To kick it off this year, I took a trip up to our science department and borrowed a few items.
Before the learners came in, I put them all into a big bag. After they were sat comfortably, I told them I had a new job and that the things I would need to do this job were all in my bag. It was there job to guess what I was going to do. As I slowly took each item out, I asked them to share their idea with a shoulder buddy, and by the time I reached the fourth item, they were all bouncing to be the first to say I was a scientist. I then gave them a whiteboard – what other equipment do you think I might need?
I was starting to get an insight into their current conceptual image of a scientist. On to the next step…what does a scientist look like? They worked on their drawings in pairs, labeling key things, for example, sharp eyes to notice things.
Once their pictures were done, we carried out a gallery walk to see what other learners had drawn. They all included many stereotypical things – glasses, a lab coat, test tubes, thermometers. All but one were male. To add to the fun, we all had a dress up to see what it felt like to dress up as a scientist.
As they removed the coats, I asked them, “Are you still a scientist now you have taken the coat off?”. It provoked some interesting responses, and I could pretty much sit back as they debated between themselves as to whether it was the coat that made them scientists, and if scientists were just a special type of person. We came up with a list of things scientists do – observe, experiment, come up with new ideas, test things, ask questions. Do you do those things, I asked. They thought no, so I showed them the evidence. Pictures of them playing with toy cars and ramps, changing the angle, wondering if they could make it fly into a bucket, trying bigger cars, smaller cars. This was not something I had set up, just general classroom stuff. And they started to see it. That we are all scientists. As the unit developed, we saw this more and more. But for now, we ended this lesson with this fab song (which I then had to re-play almost every day for about a month!). My little scientists were taking another step closer to realising they could be anything!