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OK, so…….what is a scientist?

The popular view held by most children is that the world of science is owned by wide-eyed, white-coated ‘boffins’ [1]who spend their time poking in test tubes and looking into microscopes, beautifully illustrated by 5th grader, Paige. I opened my dictionary, looked up the word scientist, and read the following:

‘A scientist: a person having expert knowledge of one or more sciences especially a natural or physical science.’

Mmmmm………not terribly helpful, I thought. That’s not how I would describe what a scientist is to a young child.   So, let me make a stab at it. I know, for a start, that:

  • Scientists are very curious about what they see around them.
  • Scientists are collectors – they collect things and they collect ideas.
  • Scientists read books to find out more about what they collected.
  • Scientists carry out experiments.
  • Scientists write notes and draw pictures to explain what’s in their heads.
  • Scientists talk with other scientists and learn from each other.


I do ALL these things, don’t I? SO, I’m a SCIENTIST! Hey, hey!

We’re ALL scientists……… aren’t we? Don’t we explore our environment in a scientific way, whether we are aware of it or not? Don’t we look, touch, hear, smell, taste and wonder why all the time? Isn’t that how we discover new things?  When we discover something new, we often experience feelings of pleasure. Which of us hasn’t seen an expression of magical delight when a young child makes a discovery? You know, the ‘Oooh…… Aaah ‘ effect?

One thing, though. That magical ‘Oooh..Aaah’ moment needs fanning as if it were the beginnings of a fire, doesn’t it?

In my experience as an educator, I appreciated quickly that, even though being curious is natural for all human beings, most young scientists need help understanding how to make sense of the science around them. Who better to help them than mum and dad? Any teacher will tell you that your involvement in your children’s education as a close family member (mother, father, grandparent, caregiver, home-schooler) is strongly related to their success as a learner.. And that common sense view is backed by educational research:  “What families do is more important to student success than whether they are rich or poor, whether parents have finished high school or not, or whether children are in elementary, junior high, or high school (Robinson, 1995).

I remember how and when I became a scientist, someone who throughout his life has enjoyed exploring and asking and finding answers to the endless questions about the world of nature. It was my parents and one teacher who fanned my science fire when I was a young kid and got me going.

So, you adults, put on your scientist hats, take the time to positively interact, as learners, as team players, with your children. Nurture their curiosity  – and yours – and their sense of being scientists. Fan their fire.

How? Well, work with your young scientist on the science activities we’ll be doing at the ‘I’m a scientist’ science workshop, and…… have FUN!!

Event Details:

Sunday, January 24 from 2-4 pm

Mackintosh Academy Littleton Campus (7018 South Prince Street)

Please RSVP beth@mackintoshacademy.com

[1] Boffin – English slang for scientist!

Mackintosh Academy Littleton