How a visit to Fermilab changed kids' perceptions of what a scientist is, and who can be one


Never underestimate the power of the field trip. Turns out, visiting real scientists doing real science had a big impact on what one group of seventh graders thought scientists looked and acted like.

The kids drew and captioned pictures before and after their trip. One of the first things that struck me, flipping through these shots, was how much more hair the real scientists had. The "before" drawings look like something out of central casting—a lot of old white guys in lab coats, often hovering over beakers full of bubbling, green liquid. The "after" images become real people—men and women, of all races, with much lower rates of male pattern baldness. Apparently, the kids caught on to the basic idea behind the existence of the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists.

Also noteworthy: The way scientists became relateable to the kids, what seem to have previously thought of scientists as weird, crazy people that didn't do anything but work. Here's what a student named James said before:

When I think of a scientist I think of brainy and very weird people. I think of lots of bottles with chemicals in them. I think of explosions with chemicals. I think of tiny little disks with data information on them. I think of little gadgets that are used for things that I do not know what they are.

And after:

A scientist is a normal person. They have a life. Scientists are just like you. Scientists wear normal clothes and not big lab coats. Scientists have hobbies like baseball and volleyball and basketball. A scientist's job looks like a lot of fun.

(Via Kateryna Artyushkova)