Young Students Ponder a Future in Science
“If you were to choose a career in science, what kind of scientist would you be?” That’s the question science teacher Nicholas Frankfurt recently asked his fourth and fifth grade students, many of whom were pleasantly surprised to learn just how numerous the options are.
“I heard comments like, ‘I didn’t know that a doctor is a kind of scientist!’ One student said, ‘I didn’t know that there was a job for people who just love monkeys!’” recalls Mr. Frankfurt. (Hint: It’s a primatologist.)
The project was inspired by Mr. Frankfurt’s time working at the American Museum of Natural History and more specifically by the many different kinds of scientists–from paleontologists, entomologists, and mammalogists to ichthyologists, herpetologists, and more–he observed asking questions and examining hypotheses within its storied walls. The lesson facilitates an exploration for the students of the myriad ways that science can help them deepen their knowledge of a subject that already interests them. “Children are naturally curious and inquisitive–the perfect scientists. But too often the field can seem daunting and unapproachable. If I can help them connect the dots between science and something they’re passionate about, it makes learning that much more enjoyable–and successful,” says Mr. Frankfurt.
And though students’ career aspirations are certainly varied (i.e. don’t be surprised if attendees at the Class of 2030 and 2031 reunions include engineers, zoologists, scientific illustrators, astronomers, and chemists), one common thread runs throughout: Children are eager to apply their skills and knowledge to make the world a better place, whether that means tackling climate change or healing disease. Of this encouraging trend Mr. Frankfurt notes that, “Despite our immersion in an increasingly digital culture, children are still moved by the promise of a tactile, sensory experience– like holding an injured animal. Whenever I do this project, many kids choose ‘helping professions’ like medicine, so they can alleviate the suffering of another living thing, be it a labrador retriever or a person.”