Teachers Guide

Wish more of your students saw science and engineering as career possibilities? “Secret Life” can help. This guide offers ideas on how to use our videos and blog posts to reveal a personal side of science that many students can relate to. You’ll also find tips on how to use “Secret Life” as a launching point for discussion and further exploration.

    Blog posts set scientists’ work in the context of the everyday world.

    Video clips in which scientists share their secret lives and explain how it relates to their work.

    Teaching tips offer ideas for incorporating the scientists’ stories into your teaching.

    Web resources break down STEM (science, technology, engineering & math) stereotypes and present STEM as a rewarding career choice.

The Secret Life Blog
Cool stories, science in our daily lives, “Secret Life” updates–all on one engaging blog. In addition to posts by the “Secret Life” team, our “Teacher Bloggers” Lisa Parisi, Michael Woods, and Lee Kolbert post ideas on how to use “Secret Life” resources to break down stereotypes, encourage kids to follow their passions, and make STEM relevant in the classroom everyday. Find the blog on the “Secret Life” homepage.

Video Clips
To find something right for your students, sort by curricular topics or by hobbies (e.g., art, music). Meet a wide range of intriguing scientists and engineers. Find out how their surprising secret lives fuel their work, and vice versa. For ideas on using this rich collection of videos with your students, see the Teaching Tips below.

Teaching Tips
Everyone, young and old, likes engaging people and stories. This is what makes “Secret Life” work well in a variety of educational settings–elementary, middle, and high schools as well as afterschool programs and summer camps. Click on the links below to reveal ideas for using the versitile “Secret Life” resources.

If you have 5 minutes...

Challenge stereotypes by showing your students one of the "10 Questions" segments. Don't reveal anything about the clip, just spring it on them. Then challenge them to determine who this person is and what he or she does. Quite likely, they will be surprised once they learn the truth--that this is a scientist or engineer.

Create a "Secret Life of Students" bulletin board to get to know your students and for them to get to know one another better. Distribute index cards. Have students share a hidden passion or talent. (Sketching works well, too.) Collect the cards and post them. You can decide whether students should include their names on the cards.

View a "Secret Life" clip. Then have students identify the stereotype that is often applied to that branch of science or engineering. Next, discuss how well the person featured in the clip fits the stereotype. Finally, have students write ten questions they would like to ask the featured person. (If there is still an active Q&A session for the person, questions can be posted to the website for responses.)

Post a link to a specific "Secret Life" scientist or engineer on your class Web page or bulletin board for kids to watch over the week. On Friday afternoon, conduct an informal discussion about careers, the featured scientist, and stereotypes.

If you have a class period...

Watch some "Secret Life" videos. Have students list generalizations we all tend to make about each other. Then discuss the assumptions we make about scientists. In what ways did their "secret lives" surprise you? Why do stereotypes persist, and what are some advantages and disadvantages of using them to describe people? How might realizing that we have preconceptions affect our own lives and the assumptions we make about others?

Form small student groups. Have them write "10 Questions for... (a scientist or engineer who is no longer alive)." Students must answer their questions as authentically as possible. Have groups share their questions. See if other groups in the class can determine the identity of the scientist or engineer.

Conduct a videoconference with a scientist or engineer. Use free videoconference software such as Skype or Adobe ConnectNow. Have students research the scientist's or engineer's area of expertise and prepare questions in advance. To find scientists and engineers interested in participating in such conversations, see if there is a parent in the school community with a science or engineering background willing to offer students insight into his or her field. Alternatively, contact a professional organization, such as those listed below. Most have chapters and members in every state and often have willing volunteers in your area.

  • American Chemical Society: acs.org
  • American Geological Institute: agiweb.org
  • American Institute of Biological Sciences: aibs.org
  • American Institute of Physics: acs.org
  • American Society of Civil Engineers: asce.org
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers: asme.org
  • Biotechnology Industry Organization: bio.org/members
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Inc.: ieee.org
  • National Society of Black Engineers: nsbe.org
  • Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers: shpe.org
  • Society of Women Engineers: swe.org
  • If you're looking for a one-night homework assignment...

    Have students view a few "Secret Life" videos and write an answer to the question, Which scientist are you most like and why?

    Each "Secret Life" profile includes a "10 Questions" clip in which the scientist or engineer responds to an assortment of wide-ranging questions about his or her personal likes, hobbies, and take on the world. Have your students participate in the "Ask a Question" part of the blog to ask the 11th (and 12th, ...) question. What kind of question would reveal something about how they think about the world? What information would help break down the scientist stereotype? Students can submit questions through the Q&A feature. Each time a new profile launches, the Q&A feature accepts questions for two weeks. Past sets of questions and answers are archived.

    Have students write about their secret lives as if they were interviewing themselves for a newspaper article. The profile must be written in third person and include quotes. If appropriate, write a brief summary of each student's paper. Then read them aloud and have the class try to guess which student it applies to.

    Have students view a "Secret Life" clip and describe the connection between a person's secret life and their work. How is one an extension of the other? For example, Nate Ball explains how he likes to push the limits. Students see him pushing himself physically and inventing a device that helps people scale walls in a way not possible without his device.

    Watch some "Secret Life" videos and discuss or research how the profiled scientist's work is relevant to the students' everyday world.

    On your class discussion board, have students post short reflections to the question, What does it mean to be a scientist? In class, discuss the responses and reflect on the series.

    If you're looking for a long-term project...

    Have students film their own "30 Second Science" video that sums up the most important points about what they are studying in science right now. Don't worry about perfection or editing. Upload the videos to SchoolTube or embed them on a class blog.

    Have students learn more about one of the profiled scientist or engineers. After reading his or her information and watching the videos, have students reflect on their learning and what they'd like to know more about by creating a class Voicethread. Make a separate page for each scientist or engineer.

    Web Resources
    The following websites offer teachers, students, and parents a host of resources to shine a positive light on STEM. There are downloadable video profiles of scientists and engineers, blogs, posters, printable brochures with positive messaging about STEM careers and activities.

    Engineer Your Life
    A guide to engineering careers for high school girls. Resources include video profiles of women engineers, a printable brochure and poster, a guide to engineering careers written to appeal to high-school girls, and information about applying to engineering programs.

    Design Squad
    Get students excited about engineering with Design Squad TV-show episodes, hands-on challenges, games, a site to post project ideas and photos/videos, short profiles of engineers, and downloadable animations illustrating 40 different science concepts.

    Dot Diva
    A site that introduces high school girls and their families to the potential of computing to build a better world. Resources include women computer scientists talking about how computing helps them realize their passion and improve the world, a webisode about two young computer scientists, and suggestions for parents and teachers on helping young women explore the field of computing.

    NOVA scienceNOW
    A library of short videos about cutting edge science. Bring students up to speed on what’s new in topics like genetics, nanophysics, earth science, and astronomy. Also offers a host of video profiles of scientists.

    NOVA Teachers on PBS Learning Media
    For decades, NOVA has brought the public the important science stories of our time. Now NOVA’s resources are available online. The searchable index will quickly enable you to find video clips, activities, animations, and interactives for the topics you teach.

    Missouri Scope
    SCOPE connects you to resources in all areas of science and technology. Find classroom resources, and learn about college programs and financial aid opportunities, and examine internship and career possibilities.