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Meet the Scientist/NOAA Assemblies

DR. ADRIANA AQUINO American Museum of Natural History

The teachers participating in the NOAA Science Literacy for Grade 6 English Language Learners program at the American Museum of Natural History are invited to bring their ELL classes to the Museum for a full day of Museum Learning Experiences. 

See Monica's story

All class visits include an assembly with a Museum scientist, a hall exploration activity, and a visit to one of the Museum's special temporary exhibits. I participated in the NOAA program as the "assembly scientist." For twenty to thirty minutes, students have the opportunity to talk with a working scientist, who--in my case--is an Ichthyologist, female, and bilingual. During my discussion with the students, I try to elicit their ideas about topics such as, what is nature, what types of scientists study nature, the types of scientists we have at the museum, and the etymology of the names of the different scientific specialties (i.e. "ology", "bio", "zoo"). This is just one of the English language building activities they do at the museum.


In the first part of the assembly, I discuss my own specialty. I show this slide and say, "Ichthyology is the study of fish, and it is a specialty within Zoology, which is one of the big branches of Biology."


I specialize in the study of catfish, the South American armored catfish, in particular. On the right is a picture of a South American catfish. This is a different species of catfish from the North American catfish on the left.

Against a black background, a visualization of Earth as viewed from space.

In the second half of the assembly, I focus on the topic of the day: what types of scientists study climate and weather. These scientists are called climatologists, atmospheric scientists, and meteorologists.


Then we talk about the cloud identification activity that students have done earlier in the Hall of North American Mammals. In this activity, called Expedition to North America, students identify the types of clouds depicted in this Bison and Pronghorn Diorama, and using the geographic coordinates of latitude and longitude, they find this location on a map. See Jay's story


Some teachers study Ecology and Adaptations with their students. For their assemblies, I have prepared an activity for the students to do in the Museum's Hall of Ocean Life. The goal of the activity is to elicit an understanding of the concept of unity and diversity, using visual images. I give students a diagram of a fish with different types of fins and some basic English vocabulary related to the structure of fish.

© Stephen Dalton/Minden Pictures

At the end of the assembly, I ask students to think about the connection between fish and climate. That's when I talk about the effect of climate change on biodiversity, one of the topics covered in the Museum's Climate Change exhibit which they visit later in the day. In the exhibit they will see a mudskipper, a fish species that lives in rock pools, and can live outside the water. They take in oxygen from water stored in their branchial cavity.


There are more than 300 hundred scientists at the American Museum of Natural History. They all do research on different aspects of nature. There are biologists like me who specialize in the study of groups of organisms, but there are also scientists who are specialized in the conservation of biodiversity (Dr. Eleanor Sterling), Earth Scientists (Dr. Ed Mathez), and Space Scientists (Dr. Neil deGrasse Tysson).


The students were excited about their experience in the assembly and their visit to the Museum's exhibits. They wrote me thank-you notes in English when they got back to their schools.