I’m a scientist. That’s what I tell people. Depending on the audience, I tell them that I study water or aquatic ecology or streams, lakes, and wetlands or aquatic ecosystems. I usually say that I catch things. You know, things like bugs or fish or water or rocks or mud. I catch things, then other people help me measure and count them, and then I try and figure out what it all means.
This was the second time that I’ve given an I’m a scientist lesson, and I tweaked a few things from the previous time. This time I just wanted to focus on the idea that anybody can become a scientist. I wanted to stress to the kids that *they* could become scientists. So, I started with the question, “What does a scientist wear?” Most answered with what I had come to expect as a typical view: a lab coat and the 3 G’s (Goggles, Glasses, Gloves). Some saw what I had in mind right from the start and said, “anything.” That’s when I went for the cheap applause. I told them, “I study streams. This is what I wear,” and I put on my chest waders.
We talked about why scientists might wear what they wear (safety, convenience, comfort, it looks cool). I showed scientists underwater, in space, at an active volcano, and in a laboratory. We talked about why they might be wearing what they were wearing. Next, I showed a slide with pictures of all kinds of people: old, young, tall, short, men, women, Albert Einstein, a long-haired dude on a motorcycle, a woman in a wheel chair, a young girl at a microscope, and all different races and nationalities. I asked which of these is a scientist? Now, of course, the trick of the thing was that they were *all* scientists. The kids talked about which ones they thought were scientists and why. Some of them argued. Others caught on right away that it was all a scam and that everyone can be a scientist.
At the end, I asked them specifically, “So… what does a scientist look like?” Most of them agreed that a scientist can look like anybody, because anybody can be a scientist. Others still thought you had to have a lab coat and goggles, glasses, and gloves. They all seemed to agree that I was a scientist, though. I’m not sure if was the glasses or the waders.