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.

Blast from the Past

As a high school teacher it didn’t take me long long to realize that high school students say some pretty fantastic things. Funny, goofy, awkward, and so purely honest it’s often hard to hold back a chuckle or even a full bellied laugh. These comments are nuggets of gold that can turn a rough day around for me.

Like anyone would do with such a nugget I collect them. These days I jot them down on a scrap of paper and stick them in a pile in a desk drawer to save for when the time is right. However, when I was student teaching 4 years ago, seems like only a blink, I didn’t have my own desk. So these slips ended up stuffed in a pocket and then onto my desk in my college dorm room, and eventually into a box as I hastily packed after graduation.

3 years later I am in the midst of a move going through old boxes. I stumbled upon a mash of old faded paper scraps holding scribbled notes ready to be set free on the world. So, I present you with a handful of treasures from the mouths of students of the class of 2011, freshman at the time, many who will be moving into their own college dorm rooms over the next few weeks.

“I did my homework… I just forgot to write it down.”

“Chicken’s are birds?”

“You know the Hurricane Tracker, I’m like the cell tracker.”

“Ms. [Smith], I’m done! I also just threw up in my mouth for some reason.”

“He’s like real gangsta though”

“Mr. Reid, are you more afraid of Zombies or Vampires?”

Some I remember the context, others I don’t, most of the time it really doesn’t matter. (clearly zombies…fyi)

“Is that a clip on?”

“Mr. Reid is that a clip on?”

This was one of the first things a student said to me as I started my class with him. Apparently, I had done such a nice job tying my tie this morning that I could pass it off as a manufactured clip on. I’ll take that as a compliment, and I’m sure my Dad would be proud since he was my instructor.

This then evolved into a couple guys saying they didn’t know how to tie a tie, or had never worn one before. It isn’t often that I’m pulled so fully into such tangents, but they had me hook, line and sinker.

So, 20 minutes later, after instructing on my tie tying technique, and practicing it; we ended with this culminating fashion show shot. A couple of students even kept their ties until the end of the day.

Let’s just say we were the classiest Biology class in school today.

It just goes to show that most times, the best things learned in a science class, or any class, are the unplanned ones.

And as they left, I smiled and asked myself… well, you know.

Bonus!

On all of my quizzes and tests I like to add fun bonus questions worth a couple of extra points. These questions usually consist of topics we’ve gone on tangents about, fun facts about the world, or even me, and just random trivia.

They usually add 3 to 5 points to a quiz grade, but my students really get into answering them. The effort, concern and energy put into getting these questions right oftentimes seems like students think the bonus is the content I am assessing. Often times I get many more questions of clarification or looking for hints about my bonus questions than the actual quiz or test questions.

Perhaps I should make a test of trivia and then have Biology questions for the bonus? Interesting.

Frequently, these bonus questions are not answered correctly; however, the answers are consistenly creative, clever and amusing. This keeps grading interesting and allows me to have a good chuckle or even full out laugh as I read them. I look forward to seeing what they come up with.

 Below I have provided some of my bonus questions and their best, yet incorrect responses, from my most recent exams.

Enjoy!

What is Mr. Reid’s Middle Name?

  • Andrew “Santa” Reid
  • Andrew “Biology” Reid
  • Andrew “Killer” Reid
  • Andrew “Alfonzo” Reid
  • Andrew “Danger” Reid
  • “Andrew (insert your middle name here) ____ Reid”
  • Its the period after Mr

What is Mr. Reid’s favorite color?

  • pink- cause he’s so manly he needs to like feminie things or he’d be too manly

What year did Columbus ‘sail the ocean blue’?

  • 1942
  • 1969
  • 1982
  • 1986*

*Yes, it’s possible I was born the year Columbus was out exploring. They must think I’m really old.

What is the only land mammal that can’t jump?                                

  • Snake
  • Alligator
  • Shark
  • Duck
  • Penguin
  • Platypus
  • Kangaroo
  • White people

What is the Orca Willy, from “Free Willy”, real name?

  • Balthazar-it should be
  • Steve
  • Steve
  • Steve the Whale
  • Rick James
  • William
  • William
  • Free
  • Killer Whale
  • I don’t know who cares I like Air Bud better.

Do you know the answers? Post any guesses you may have, or try to be just as creative as some of these students if you don’t.