Getting All Students to Do Science

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Have you ever had your students draw a picture of a scientist? What percentage drew an older white male in a lab coat? Did any of the female students draw females? What about the male students? It’s possible that you’ve done this same activity for a number of years and may have started seeing a shift in the frequency of female scientists being drawn. We’ve made improvements in this area, but as students get older, we see them shift more to thinking of science as a male field rather than a field for anybody. We need to continue opening the doors for all students of any identity to become scientists.

To achieve this goal, research shows that it’s critical for students to do science before focusing on becoming a scientist. For that reason, PhD Science® students truly do science by conducting investigations, analyzing data, and collaborating with their peers. This and other intentional elements of PhD Science ensure all students have access to rich science content and the ability to pursue science in college or their careers if they so choose.



With fine art on every cover, content-rich trade books and purposeful multimedia connections, and authentic, relatable phenomena, PhD Science paves the way for science to be accessible to all students.

Fine Art

Great Minds® was honored to be picked for a STEAM Excellence Award in 2021 for its intentional inclusion of fine art in PhD Science. Fine art provides another lens for students to explore the content, offers a view into how art and science are related as disciplines, and exposes students to diverse perspectives and cultures.

Under the Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai

  • In Level 3 Module 1: Weather & Climate, students observe Under the Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai and then share their observations of the painting with their peers. After discussing the initial observations, students connect the painting to their study of severe weather and weather hazards.
  • In Level 2 Module 3: Plants, students share what they notice and wonder about Tiger Lilies and Butterfly by Ohara Koson. They examine the print while considering their knowledge of plant and animal interactions to deepen their understanding of pollination.
  • In Level 1 Module 4: Sky, students observe a photograph of the Moai statue on the Polynesian island, Easter Island. After sharing what they notice and wonder about the statue, students compare how Polynesians may have used the statues and stars for navigation.
  • In Level K Module 1: Weather, students observe photographs of the interior and exterior of Casa Bastlló and determine if it is a shelter. Students then discuss how some shelters can serve purposes beyond keeping people safe and comfortable and learn that Casa Bastlló was also designed as a work of art and a museum.

Trade Books

Several cross-curricular connections are made in PhD Science, including to mathematics, geography, history, and English language arts. Unique to PhD Science, core texts (authentic trade books) are tied to the science concepts being studied and are essential to ensure students build meaningful knowledge. The majority of these titles are also available in Spanish, with many only available through Great Minds.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Brian Mealer

  • In Level 4 Module 2: Energy, students study The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Brian Mealer as they strive to answer the Essential Question: How do windmills change wind to light?
  • In Level 4 Module 1: Earth Features, students explore Grand Canyon by Jason Chin to help answer the Essential Question: How did the Grand Canyon’s features form? 
  • In Level 1 Module 2: Light, students read Blackout by John Rocco as they consider how light affects the visibility of objects.
  • In Level 1 Module 1: Survival, students investigate the Essential Question: How do pond plants and pond animals survive in their environment? To help build knowledge, students read Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner.

Family Tip Sheets provide additional reading suggestions to support the home-school connection.

  • In Level 2 Module 1: Matter, one of the suggested readings is Birds Build Nests by Elizabeth Raum and Romina Marti.
  • In Level K Module 1: Weather, one of the recommended readings is Monsoon Afternoon by Kashmira Sheth and Yoshiko Jaeggi.

Multimedia Connections

Videos that support meaningful knowledge development are incorporated into PhD Science.

  • In Level 3 Module 4: Forces and Motion, students watch several women soccer players, including Crystal Dunn, as they consider how soccer on board the International Space Station may differ from soccer on Earth. This helps them develop their thinking around the Essential Question: Why do objects move differently in space than they do on Earth?
  • In Level 1 Module 3: Sound, students listen to part of “The Charleston,” composed by James P. Johnson in 1923, to explain how people can use instruments to communicate.
  • In Level K Module 1: Weather, "Talking to Your Kids about Blizzards" from The Weather Channel is one of the videos that may be used depending on the severe weather that is most likely to occur locally. Other options are tornadoes, hurricanes, or thunderstorms.

Authentic Phenomena

Many considerations were made in the selection of phenomena for PhD Science, including classroom relevance, connections to student experiences, and social and historical significance.

  • In Level 5 Module 3: Earth Systems, the anchor phenomenon is Balinese rice farming, which has endured for 1,000 years.
  • In Level 1 Module 2: Light, the anchor phenomenon is Wayang shadow puppetry, which originated in Indonesia.



All components of PhD Science support students in making sense of the world around them as they build enduring knowledge of the science concepts being studied. The PhD Science teacher–writers support this effort through intentional lesson design. Teachers are guided through accessing prior knowledge and building background information with students as they dive deep into phenomena and science ideas.

Related Phenomena

Related phenomena that students share allow teachers to bring students’ prior knowledge of the anchor phenomenon and science concepts to the surface.

Teacher's Edition Cover of Level 5 Module 3

  • In Level 5 Module 3, Balinese rice farming is likely not familiar to most, but many students will be familiar with other types of farming or perhaps gardening. Students may know about corn, wheat, cotton, or other crops. They may have seen complex irrigation systems on larger farms or used watering cans or sprinklers on plants at home. If they don’t relate on that level, they may make connections to dams, water treatment facilities, or wells. Again, students may come up with additional connections to the phenomenon and concepts in the module.

Teacher's Edition Cover of Level 1 Module 2

  • In Level 1 Module 2, students may not be familiar with Wayang shadow puppetry, but they may have used their hands to make shadow puppets, and all students likely have observed their shadows on a sunny day at recess. These are just a couple examples of connections that students may make to the anchor phenomenon and their own experiences of related phenomena.

Driving Question Board

All those student-generated, related phenomena should be captured on the driving question board along with questions that arise throughout the module, especially through investigation and observation. This anchor visual assists students in making connections between concepts and highlights student understanding of concepts as their knowledge and skills build and develop.

Instructional Routines

The driving question board will capture many of the diverse ideas and thoughts of the classroom, while instructional routines leveraged throughout instruction will provide further opportunity for students to hear the diverse thinking of their peers.

  • Think–Pair–Share allows individual students to consider their thoughts about a question and then collaboratively discuss the question with peers.
  • Value Line-Up encourages students to organize and deepen their thinking about essential concepts as they demonstrate agreement or disagreement with a posed statement or point of view and expand their understanding by listening to classmates’ ideas.
  • Vote–Discuss–Revote tracks students’ thinking throughout a lesson or lesson set through the use of voting, student-driven discussion, and then reevaluation of the initial vote.
  • Give One–Get One–Move On engages all students in identifying and sharing key learning.

You can learn more about these routines and others with a free Great Minds account and by adding the Teacher Resource Pack to your dashboard. The Implementation Guide found in the pack contains these routines and much more.

At the core of PhD Science development is the understanding that teachers know what is best for their classroom and students, so there is much flexibility built in. There are roughly 110 days of instruction with PhD Science, which means that teachers can give additional time to building background knowledge or expounding upon different viewpoints throughout the curriculum.

Topics: High-Quality Curriculum Getting Started - PhD Science PhD Science