My Top Picks for Science Fair 2012

            A standard part of the 10th grade Biology curriculum at my school is designing, conducting and presenting scientific research at the science fair. This serves as an excellent opportunity for students to work through the process of the scientific method thinking creatively and independently as they design their experiment.
          Since, for most students, this is their first inquiry based science fair project, versus building a model… like a volcano (classic), they are constantly supported throughout the process. Multiple instances of formative assessment as they first design their experimental question and hypothesis, continue on to the development and completion of the experimental procedure, and finally during the analysis and discussion of the result. They receive feedback and suggestions at each step, as well a guidance and deadlines to try to defeat the terrible foe: procrastination.
           As we start this process as a class I have put together some of my favorite experimental questions as posed by my 10th grade students. These are favorites because of the creativity, the topics, or it is based on something that significantly piqued my interested as well. The wording is their own after having adjusted it based on the original set of feedback I provided.
My science fair top picks for 2012:
  • Are green detergents actually less harmful to the environment?
  • Do weather conditions impact deer movement?
  • Does playing video games stimulate your brain in way to do math problem quicker?
  • Does the price of bottled water influence people’s decision on which water tastes better?
  • Does snacking prior to reading increase reading rate?
  • Which denomination of US Dollar bill has more bacteria on it?

With all students having created questions, the next step is determining, how will they test them? What will they learn? I’ll keep you posted.

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It’s Science Fair Season!

Yawn… Stretch… OH! Why, hello there!

I’m just waking up from a mid-evening nap as I try to recover from the past two and a half weeks.

Last night was the annual science fair at my school, marking the culmination of 2.5 months of planning, preparing, experimenting and analysis of student designed experiments.

The amazing thing about students is they have their own space time continuum.

For instance timing yeast fermenting for 15 minutes in student time, some how turns out to be 2o minutes in real time.

“Yes, Mr. Reid we’re watching the clock.” Sure you are.

The other astounding aspect of the student space time continuum is that 2.5 months of work actually fits into 2 weeks. Needless to say, this is why I am drained like the batteries sitting in that kitchen drawer, you know the one. The past two weeks have been a whirl wind of hours logged in the computer lab as I frantically try to move from student to student answering questions, explaining, clarifying and re-explaining information I’ve provided on atleast 3 handouts which I’m sure one if not two copies of are crumpled in every students backpack or locker.

Now, having tried to get students to start working, start experimenting, start analyzing, start anything since early December; it has been a difficult and slightly frustrating few weeks. When it comes to student procrastination there are two main ways to handle it:

1. You’re on your own, S.O.L., up “the” creek… that mentality. Students have had their time, missed due dates, and miss oppourtunities for help, so the can work it out on their own and whatever they get done, they get done.

2. Patience, repetition, and support… even at the eleventh hour sticking by your students helping them create the best product they can, even when you just want to pull your hair out.

Those of you who have read any of my other posts I am confident you can guess which approach I utilized, and it was worth it. Students were able to understand and hold onto the scientific method as a way of learning about the world when they were supported and guided through its use, rather than struggle with it on their own in a pit of frustration and approaching deadlines.

The best ways of teaching are certainly not the easiest, so the science fair must be one of the best. It is a priceless learning opportunity.  Working so many levels of thinking: creativity and logic, as experiments are designed, analytical as data is crunched and graphed, and artistic and visual spacial as the display boards are created. Not to mention the importance of practicing and using inquiry from start to finish to develop those skills.

Though its been a tough and stressful couple of weeks, just as the past two science fair seasons were, I am glad we did it. Beyond providing students with important scientific experience it gives them as chance to share what they know with the community, as well as welcomes the community into our classrooms to experience some science.

The best part is not I can look back and see a job well done, and just in time for February vacation. Off to Miami… I’ve got to rest up for next season after all.