Pulling Back the Curtain: Uncovering and Changing Students' Perceptions of Scientists


concerning this article should be addressed to Jason Painter, CB #3500, 309 Peabody Hall, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3500. Electronic mail may be sent via Internet to painterj@email.unc.edu


Although there have been numerous scientists-in-the-classroom initiatives in recent years, there is little research that documents whether or not these initiatives make an impact on students. This study examined 27 seventh-grade and 27 tenth-grade students' perceptions of scientists before and after a weeklong educational experience on nanotechnology, where students interacted with scientists. The data from this project included student interviews (pre and post intervention), field notes, student stories, and follow-up interviews conducted 1 year after the project. Results showed that fewer than 10% of participants reported ever interacting with scientists in school settings prior to this project, despite attending schools in areas surrounded by a high density of scientists. Students' perceptions of scientists changed as a result of the project. The implications for science instruction are discussed.