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How Do Kids See Science?

May 3, 2018
Mickie Noble
Kids & Science

Stereotypes are how we make sense of our world – we assign characteristics to categories so that we can act without needing to confirm all the attributes of the category. For example, we have certain expectations of what a “scientist” or a “fireman” or a “woman” is. As we become older, our knowledge of which characteristics can be assumed becomes more sophisticated. However, children are just starting to develop their lists of categories and their characteristics – as a result, they look to adults and to their own observations to determine what the characteristics may be for the categories they see around them. Sometimes, this results in children assuming that characteristics like gender are important in contexts that adults would not.

How do kids see science? This is an important question because it impacts their interests and the choices they will make as they move through education. Which characteristics do kids see scientists having?

If you ask older children (grade five and up) to draw a scientist, you will consistently see the classic image of the white male in a lab coat with crazy hair, glasses, and who has probably just blown himself up. This pervasive image occurs throughout movies, stories, cartoons and other media. Think about your image of a "mad scientist" – they are often the villain in media portrayals of science. But what happens when you ask young children about what a scientist, doctor, hero or a villain is? The results may actually surprise you. They certainly surprised us!

View the full article from the Journal of Emergent Science.

Reference: Noble, M.A. and C.D. Tippett. (2015) Dr. Blasto: Grade 1 Students’ Portrayal of a Fictional Science Villain. Journal of Emergent Science 9(summer): 10-22.