A charming website called Who’s the Scientist? shows seventh graders’ images of scientists before and after actually meeting scientists.
It’s part of a program at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory called Beauty and Charm — because, you silly, those are the names of two kinds of subatomic quarks — that brings junior high students to Fermilab. Some time ago, the program needed to decorate some temporary plywood walls up on Fermilab’s 15th floor. The 15th floor is famous for looking out over the accelerator paths and millenia of prairie, but those temporary walls were ugly. So first, Beauty and Charm asked the students to draw and describe what they thought scientists would be like. Then the students sat down with some actual scientists; and the students and scientists, says Beauty and Charm, took the discussion where they wanted to. Afterward, the students drew and described again.
Eric’s Before Scientist was a bald white guy in a lab coat looking fiercely intellectual, with equations coming out of his head. Eric’s After Scientist was a normally dressed, friendly looking black guy, under whom Eric wrote: “Actually they are just people who ask and answer questions.”
I can highly recommend Matt, Beth, Dan, and Amanda, though not one of the seventh graders was anything other than — as I said — charming. But my favorite was Angela: “I think everyone has a little bit of science ‘love’ in them.”