Teacher Guidance: Planet Earth Zone

1. Introducing the activity


What is I’m a Scientist?

Send or read the text in the box below to your students to brief them about the activity.

I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here is an activity where you connect with real scientists online. We are taking part in the Planet Earth Zone, part of the televised CHRISTMAS LECTURES at the Royal Institution.
The Zone has two sections: Ask and Chat.

Chat — As a class, we will have a 40 minute live-chat with some of the experts – scientists, researchers and people who worked on the Lectures. It’s all text based, and you can ask the experts any questions you like. You can see who has signed up for your chat on your dashboard.
Ask— You can ask the experts whatever you like, even if they weren’t in your chat. Send your questions any time and, if you leave an email address, you’ll get an email when you’ve been answered. Questions and answers stay on the site so have a look around and see what others have asked.
You can log in outside of school hours to send more questions to the experts. There will be evening chats every Thursday from 7-8pm you can join with your family.

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2. How to book live chats

Teacher dashboard

Get students online 

Send students a registration URL for them to create their own usernames.
You will be emailed this URL once you’ve booked your live chats.



Book your live chats 

Live chats are consistently the most popular part of the activity– for students, for scientists, and even for teachers!

On your dashboard, use the Book Your Live Chat button to go to the booking page. After clicking Confirm Booking, you will get a confirmation email with the next steps.

Pre-Chat checklist

Before your first live chat, you will need to:

    • Tell your class when the chat is! You will receive a confirmation email with information for students you can copy and paste.
    • Get your students to create their own usernames – the URL for this will be in your confirmation email.
    • Test the chat and ask your questions about how it works. Go to the staffroom, between 9-5 any day during term-time.

Taking part in live Chats

  • At the time of your chat, you and your students need to click the ‘Chat’ button on the top of your dashboard.
  • A moderator will have set the chat up for you.
  • Only students in your class can access your booked chat. If you have any issues joining the chat call us ASAP on 01225 326892.

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3. Suggested lesson plans

Watch the Lectures on BBC iPlayer.

Lesson 1 – Set the scene

Prep – Send your students a registration URL for them to create their own usernames. This will be in your chat confirmation email, or on your Dashboard.

  • Introduce the activity and send the website to the class.
  • Get students to read some profiles and make a list of questions they would like to ask the experts.
  • Either during lesson time or as homework, ask students to watch a Lecture and think of questions to ask.

Homework – Use the registration URL to set up your username. Read the expert profiles. Ask at least one question you thought of in the lesson to experts on the site.


Lesson 2 – Live chat

Prep – Book your live chat for a time that suits you, from your Dashboard. Live chat spaces are limited and allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

  • Students log in to the site. They can read profiles and Ask before the chat opens.
  • Click Chat at the top of the page to join the chat. It will open 5 minutes before your booked slot.
  • After the Chat, post any left-over questions in Ask.

Homework – Return to the Zone to post questions in Ask, read and comment on other questions.
The website will remain open for students questions until 5 February.

Extra evening chats – parental engagement

On Thursday evenings from 7pm to 8pm (14, 21 and 28 January, and 4 February), we’re running extra, after-school chats as an opportunity to involve parents and carers in what you are doing in school. It’s been really popular in previous activities, with students keen to introduce their families and friends to the scientists they have been connecting with in class.

More information and printable handouts.

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4. Supporting the Science Capital Teaching Approach

I’m a Scientist helps you to use the Science Capital Teaching Approach with your class. This approach is designed to support teachers in helping students find more meaning and relevance in science and, as a result, engage more with the subject. 

The approach consists of three main pillars, all of which can be supported using the I’m a Scientist activity.

  1. Personalising and localising: Going beyond contextualising, to connect to the actual experiences, understandings, attitudes and interests of young people.
  2. Eliciting-valuing-linking: Inviting students to share knowledge, attitudes and experiences; recognising these as having value; and connecting this back to the science.
  3. Building the dimensions of science capital: Considering the eight dimensions when developing activities, lessons or programmes.

The ideas for the Science Capital Teaching Approach were co-developed and trialled over four years between UCL researchers and 43 secondary science teachers in England. More information.

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5. Further activities

  • Go through the transcript with your class
  • Review questions asked by your students
  • Evening chats
    • Evening chats are 7–8 pm on Thursdays throughout the activity
    • Remind students they can join these from home with their family and friends

We asked teachers what tips they would give to a teacher taking part in I’m a Scientist for the first time.

Here are the most common answers:

  1. Spend more time preparing students
    Run lessons 1 and 2 before the live chat lesson to prepare students.
    “We have just had our live chat. It was the best yet I think, because we had spent much more time on preliminary activities so we had loads of questions to ask.”
  2. Involve more students
  3. Encourage students to be creative with their questions
    There are better ways to use the activity than using the scientists as Googlers.
    “Get the students to investigate the interests and subject of study of each scientist, so they can ask appropriate and useful questions.”

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