The Magic of Spring, Seeds, and Science!


by Priscilla Robinson

Spring in the Pacific Northwest comes with a fanfare of germinating seeds, blossoming flowers, and budding trees.  As a science educator, I like to jump on Mother Nature’s bandwagon to bring this burst of plant life into my classroom.  What your students see every day can bloom into teachable moments.  These learning ideas will help you make the most out of the magic and science of spring.

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Science Fairs in the News


latino-professor-newspaperYou might be surprised how much news there is about the ubiquitous science fair!  We have collected a few worthy articles for you.  Some are funny, others are provocative—and they’re all worth a look.

If you come across an article of interest, please share it with us in the Comments section below.

Happy reading!

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Science Fair Discussion Starters


Discussion Starters - Educational Innovations NewsletterWhy are science fairs important?  What makes the science fair process valuable?  It’s an excellent question and a good way to start a class discussion about this time-honored tradition.  First and foremost, why DO we ask our students to work on a science fair project year after year?   The answer, in a nutshell, is to help them learn how to think like scientists.  Scientists find answers to questions that interest them.  In other words, your students simply need to ask themselves, What do I want to know more about?

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Science Fair Lesson – The Scientific Method


Lesson - Educational Innovations Blog

What is the scientific method?  It’s one of the stepping stones your students need to cover before starting any science fair project.

As this helpful primer from Science Buddies states, “Whether you are doing a science fair project, a classroom science activity, independent research, or any other hands-on science inquiry, understanding the steps of the scientific method will help you focus your scientific question and work through your observations and data to answer the question as well as possible.”

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All about Science Fair Judging


By Dr. Maille Lyons

Judges are the “referees” in the sport of science fair. As with most refereed sports, the losing teams will often blame the referees for failure and, in some cases that is accurate.  In other cases you just got beat.

Since there is no appeal process, no coach’s challenge, and no instant replay for review, the science fair judges’ decisions stand (and will not be explained no matter how much you beg…). SO KNOWING THAT, your project must be well executed and well communicated so that the “bad calls” are minimized.

Student tips for judging:

•   Greet your judges—stand up, look at them, shake their hand, and say, “It is nice to meet you, my name is…”

•   Be able to summarize your project in two minutes, but also have a longer, more detailed presentation ready in case the judge doesn’t have any immediate questions or time constraints.

•   Highlight the creative or unexpected aspects of your science fair project.  If you encountered any problems along the way that you had to solve, describe that process!  Judges love the problem-solving aspects because it shows you did some thinking (as opposed to just following directions from a project).

•   Tell the judges what you learned in a story format.

•   Understand why your project is important.

•   Show enthusiasm and knowledge.

•   Dress neatly.  The impression you leave on a judge is critical when they then advocate for your project in the judging room.  No gum chewing!

•   If you don’t know the answer, it is okay to say “I don’t know,” but think first:  is it that you don’t know the answer, or don’t understand the question?  Don’t be afraid to say “I’m not sure what you are asking, could you re-phrase it?  or “That is an interesting idea, I hadn’t considered that.”

•   Know what you would do next (i.e., what is one logical next experiment?) because it demonstrates you fully understood the scientific method and your project.

•   If the judge recommends an improvement, say “Thank you” and acknowledge it as a good idea.

Ten science fair questions students should be prepared to answer:

 1.   Where did you get the idea for this project?

2.   What did you learn?

3.   Why are your findings (i.e. results/data/conclusion) important?

4.   What was your control (i.e. why is that a control for the independent variable)?

5.   Why did you pick that hypothesis (i.e. why did you think that would happen)?

6.   Who helped you?

7.   What would be an example of the next logical experiment (i.e. what would you do next)?

8.   If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

9.   What were the hardest/easiest/most challenging/most fun /most exciting/ most unexpected (etc.) parts of the project?

10.   Did anything surprise you along the way and why (i.e. how did you overcome that problem)?

Remember that there is a component of judging that is intangible and unpredictable.  It is based on the random allocation of projects into rooms or groups. In the ideal situation, all judges would review all projects and all come to one agreement.  This is not going to happen because of time constraints.  Consequently, your impression on whatever judges you are randomly assigned is critical.

More tips for students:

•   You need to study your project.  You are responsible for every word on your backboard and every concept related to every word on your back board.

•  Chances are you did the project a considerable time before the actual judging (especially at the higher levels); go back and re-read the log book and your research paper.

•   You need to show enthusiasm and knowledge TOGETHER.

•   One judge can make a difference—so treat EVERYONE who stops by your project with the utmost respect.

•   Depending on your project, you could win while wearing ripped jeans or you could lose while wearing dress clothes BUT remember that the impression you make on the judge is critical and your appearance will factor into that, even if it is ever so slight.  So if you hate dressing up—find the least dressy thing that you will not be fidgeting in and put in on for a few hours.

•   HAVE FUN!!

 For more on science fairs, check out our Science Fair Newsletter, our Science Fair Discussion Starters and teachers’ reviews of some of our best Science Fair products.

Dr. Maille Lyons is an environmental microbiologist who is also known as “The Science Fair Coach.”  Her website provides science fair preparation tips for teachers, parents, science coaches, and students.

 

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