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Exploring Middle School Girls’ Science Identities: Examining Attitudes and Perceptions of Scientists when Working “Side-by-Side” with Scientists

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Abstract

This article is the culmination of an extensive inquiry-focused interactive experience involving female middle school students and five university scientists, which demonstrated that middle school girls ‘perception of science and scientists can be successfully improved. The study exposed students to adult professional scientists over a period of a few days in laboratory and field exercises. Based on student journal entries and pictorial illustrations, as well as attitude surveys, the experience resulted in a keen appreciation of the sciences among the majority of participants and both a heightened and broadened awareness of Science as a Human Endeavor. The students’ resulting perceptions reinforce the importance for science educators to expose their students to adult professional scientists in order for students, especially female students, to develop a better understanding of science and the role of scientists. Engaging scientists in helping promote science as a positive, exciting and satisfying career goal will help debunk common myths in the minds of young students about science and drive students, especially female students, to consider science careers.

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