What Do Scientists Do?

What You Need

What Do Scientists Do?


To develop an understanding of the diversity and nature of various science disciplines.


This lesson will require students to do a report on distinct scientific fields using the Internet resources provided. The lesson should provide students with an idea of the diversity of science disciplines. Learning about the different science disciplines can help students see the connection between what they learn in the classroom and what goes on in the enterprise of science. The class will produce a booklet on science disciplines, with each student contributing a chapter.

You may want to combine this lesson with information about science careers or with classroom visits by scientists. This lesson would also be useful for students who may be participating in career shadowing activities with scientists or engineers. Career shadowing can be a powerful experience for students, providing them with an up-close look at what a "real science job" is like.

Activities such as these are important in helping students view science as a diverse line of work; and awareness of the varied possibilities can be a helpful reminder to students that they keep themselves eligible for these possibilities by selecting challenging mathematics and science courses in high school.


Using the What Do Scientists Do? student esheet, refer students to these interviews with scientists:

After students have read the pages, lead them in a discussion about what they have learned about scientists, asking questions such as the following:

  • What does Dr. Houston do? Where does he do most of his work?
  • What does Dr. Diaz do? Can you describe her workplace?
  • Even though they work in different fields, can you see any similarities in the work that Dr. Diaz and Dr. Houston do?

Then lead students through a more general discussion of the following question:

  • What are some fields or disciplines of science and what do they deal with?

Students should be able to name and describe things such as biology, chemistry, physics, earth science, and so on. Most likely students will mention disciplines that mirror typical courses in school, but they may mention other popular or well-known fields such as paleontology or meteorology. If students have relatives that are scientists or engineers, encourage them to discuss what their work involves.


In this lesson, individual students will study different disciplines in detail and share their findings with the rest of the class. A list of possible disciplines with Web resources that will get students started on their research can be found on the What Do Scientists Do? student esheet. Each student will be responsible for creating a chapter of a class booklet or multimedia presentation on diverse science disciplines.

To get students started on the assignment, go over the disciplines found on the E-Sheet. Have students check off the ones that they think they know. Then let them select one to research further. Allow students about a week to complete the assignment. When students are done, you can collect the chapters and put together a booklet that you can distribute to the class. Students should share and discuss the entries. As part of the discussions, students should reflect on what are some of the common elements of all of the disciplines described, which disciplines seem to be most related to each other, and which study similar problems in different ways.


To help students clarify their thinking about the benchmark and to assess their understanding, have each student write a one-page introduction to the class book on science disciplines. Directions are provided on the esheet in the section called "Understanding What You Learned."

Student work should demonstrate the understanding that in spite of the diversity of science disciplines, they all share a common approach in trying to understand the natural world in a systematic way.


TheScience NetLinks lesson, Women in Medicine: Past and Future, can be used to extend ideas in this lesson.

Students can continue their studies of science disciplines in a more substantive way. These further studies can involve interviews, field trips, readings of scientific papers, and career shadowing. Students do not need to continue to explore the disciplines that they began with in this lesson. Rather, they should be permitted to explore in greater depth those that interest them the most.

For information about job shadowing see Introduction to Job Shadowing.

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Lesson Details

Grades Themes Project 2061 Benchmarks National Science Standards State Standards