It's time for Science Fair in Austin, TX. I have been a judge at the Regional Science Fair for the last several years and thoroughly enjoy it. I am also the science fair coordinator at my school. As coordinator, I have heard science fair reflections from kids, parents, teachers, and administrators, and have reflected on it myself. What are your reflections? If it were up to you, would you make science fair mandatory or optional, would you require it be done outside of school, or make time for it in class? Or, would you do away with science fair in favor of just doing science? Let's hear your thoughts.
Eric does an AMAZING job of running our entire (large) school's Science Fair for grades K-5. It's all very well coordinated and well done. Each year, I am further impressed that Eric is able to take this on to such a high manner. GO, ERIC!! We're all so lucky to have you.
Honestly, I have never been a big fan of Science Fairs, for myself, personally (sorry, Eric!). I felt tons of pressure when I was young to have a project in Middle School, and I never felt great at finding good ideas (or so I thought and worried)...etc. Now it all seems that I could have taken more obvious or investigatory routes, but for some reason, we didn't seem to go in that direction in my school or class at the time.
ANYway, as a teacher, I've tried to impart the sheer genius and creativity and thinking that pursuing a Science Project can instill... But, I do still feel that huge nervousness from Middle School, and I'm trying to help my students not feel that way. Still, I'm torn--I don't think I'd want Science Fair to be mandatory, b/c of what I experienced. However, I see why that is necessary--it's a good experience for all to, at least, experience, I suppose. I do prefer to just "do" science, but I also teach first grade, and the formality of presentations, etc. (though also, very important), sometimes takes time from instructional time, which could be used to explore and investigate science. I completely see the benefits in inspiring our youngest, and when I've seen Conan interview Sciene Project Winners at high levels, it's truly something to see...so, I don't know what's best. I just know I've never shaken those Middle School feelings about it all.
No offense, in ANY way, Eric, as your Science Fair, is I'm sure the best there's ever been.
I tell my students that the most difficult part of the science fair project is coming up with an idea, and the best time to start looking for one is the year before (my 4th graders should already be on the lookout for the idea they will use in 5th grade). And, the best way to look is to not look intentionally. Children ask questions all the time, some of which would make good science fair projects. I tell the students and parents to write down questions posed by the kids and keep a list. One of the questions is bound to make a good, authentic science fair project.
I'm somewhat biased towards any science activity . My school offers science fair as an optional "extension activity." With about 70% of our students on free and reduced lunch, there is minimal parental support to do science fair at home.
My science team took this as a challenge. We try to do science fair style activities in our classes but do not do an actual science fair.
Yes, I think that if we didn't do a formal science fair, we would do our own classroom or grade-level fair, modified so that students aren't put off by the pressure (see Lisa's reply). Modifications could include allowing demonstrations and collections (rather than just experiments as required by 4th and 5th graders at our school), different styles of presentation (not limiting students to the standard tri-board), and allowing class rather than just individual projects.
Eric, I do like your last statement-- "allowing class rather than just individual projects". Have you had the opportunity to have your students pick the problem(s) and then come up with the process for solving that problem? I could invision a campus fair where the students would be able to present to the rest of the school. I don't know if that's possible or not, but it seems to me that might spark some interest, especially with the younger kids (K-3).
For science fair the students come up with their projects, and in class, the students have opportunities to pick their own questions to investigate. I think it would be great for students to come up with a question for the class to investigate and present at science fair. I will work on this angle for a school science fair for next year.
I much prefer to have students collaborating on class science activities. Your suggestion relating to class science fair projects could be fun. Many "group science fair projects" tend to be driven by one student (or parent.) Doing this as a class could lead to true collaboration and exploration.
I am also conducting Science fair teacher training (STT) since six years, there are two versions of this training the two - three day face to face, and the on line trainings. i have done both, but my experrience showed that an amalgamtion of both versions was better, so i take few modules from the previous one and then complete the Action Plan.
Teachers like the training, and in every batch of teachers i get four five teachers who are ready to work with their students, and the provincial govt also supports us a lot here.
These science fairs have created an awareness about Intel Science fairs and do research based Science work which was minus before.
Thanks to intel.
Intel is the main platform where teachers are getting trainings, the govt. is imparting trainings also, but they have a different style, as there is no end showcasing, which could show the work of students or teachers. as for intel Science fairs are organised and eventually one see the students at an international level.
After STT or intel Essential courses, many of the participant teachers are unable to participate, i am glad that i see a change in them when i meet or get to see any science exhibition organised by the school themselves.