White Coats Create Focus on Science

Hi and welcome back to Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers!

Is there a more iconic symbol of the wonderful world of science than a white coat? I can’t think of one, not one that spans the vast realms of medicine, research, and wide range of applied sciences.

Teaching children in grades K – 5 about science can be a challenge because young minds have limited capacity for critical thinking – limited but reachable – using the right tools and tricks. If sparking student interest in the sciences is on your need-to-do list, try one or more of these tricks…

INVITE A WHITE-COATED SCIENCE-BASED GUEST TO YOUR CLASSROOM – Check out the availability, for example, of a veterinarian or vet tech currently working in your community. You may even get special permission for the veterinary professional to bring along an animal like Lexie, shown in my blog pic

"See how I hold the stethescope? Lexie's heart sounds healthy!"

here. This adorable beagle is eleven years old and has patience to spare. Lexie’s “on duty” as a patient of Kathleen Bedard. She’s demonstrating the proper way to listen to a dog’s heart. A native of Michigan, Kathleen is a second-year student at the world-renowned College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University. Kathleen, white coat and all, would make a perfect guest in any elementary school classroom!

SET UP A STUFFED ANIMAL CLINIC – If you’re able to schedule a classroom visit with an animal care-giver,  you’ll delight your students when you set aside time for your guest to conduct a Stuffed Animal Clinic (recommended for grades Pre K – 2) like you see in my blog pic below. Lauren Trott, a first-year veterinary student from North Carolina, is finishing “surgery” on a small black (stuffed) dog.

"I just have to snip the suture and your dog will be fine!"

The dog’s owner is happy and a bit more familiar with the science of veterinary medicine, having spent some quality time with Lauren.

Plan ahead for your classroom Stuffed Animal Clinic, a popular attention-ology trick. Coordinate with the guest care-giver to decide on her or his presentation; it may include an introduction to what veterinarians do, as well as her or his conducting the “clinic.” To make the most of this learning experience, ask if your guest is able to bring print resources, such as copies of a coloring book about the veterinary profession, that you can distribute to your class for follow-up to the visit.  (Online resources offer another option for follow-up activities to support your curriculum goals.)

A few days ahead of the veterinary professional’s visit, create counter space or table space for stuffed animal “patients” in the Stuffed Animal Clinic. Hold a drawing (a separate math activity) to select a limited number of students who may bring in one stuffed animal that is in need of repair. The Clinic in my pic

The Stuffed Animal Clinic is crowded with patients!

here has a waiting list! Thank goodness the NC State Vet School, where this pic was taken, is full of capable students eager to help children learn about animal medicine.

CREATE SCIENCE CAREER TIME IN YOUR CLASSROOM – You may opt to invite a white-coated professional in a field other than veterinary medicine. No problem. The key is to catch and keep elementary school student interest in S.T.E.M. – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

If you’re working with students in grades 3 – 5 you may want to schedule a series of classroom guests over a period of weeks, or even months – one guest who works in each of the four S.T.E.M. fields. Wouldn’t that be cool! Access to science and medical professionals will depend, of course, on where you live, but I’ve noticed in my community that people in businesses and industries related to science and medicine are eager to help teachers involve students in science education.

ASK STUDENTS TO SLIP INTO A WHITE LAB COAT – Remembering actress, Kathryn Hepburn’s expression, “Theater is practice for living,” you may want to borrow or buy a white lab coat for your classroom. Let students take turns role-playing a scientist. This attention-ology trick offers all kinds of possibilities, especially for grades 2 – 5. For example, students can select a grade-level curriculum-based focus for a science research project to do. When they’ve completed the work, (may include a written paper with supporting graphics or illustrations) you can schedule science “presentations.” Set up a “scientist table” at the front of the class or provide “scientist’s access to a smartboard,” along with – you guessed it – the white lab coat for each presenting “scientist” to wear. You know that kids love costumes; allowing your students to look like and feel like a scientist during this school year may be a step to them becoming one for real, years from now.

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings!

Talk with you next week,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet

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Barbara Cleary has been serving as a resource to hundreds of educators for more than 25 years. An award-winning writer, producer, teacher, and trainer, Barbara’s focus is on offering easy, fun tools and tricks that support K-5 curricula and assist teachers with classroom management.
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