Science Fairs: Yay or Nay?


Anonymous said…
This poster made my day! Thank you.

mirmac1 said…
What? No volcano?
DrKate said…
I really enjoyed helping out with my daughter's first science fair. She had fun putting it together and showing what she learned.

I think that the key is voluntary participation, not mandatory.
LYNN said…
Yes - voluntary participation or do it as an in-class project.
Anonymous said…
I was unable to link to JAMS fusion page:

Is it working for others? I'm looking for the proposed daily schedule.

Anonymous said…
I can't access the JAMS fusion page either. You can access the master schedule through the JAMS PTSA site.

Anonymous said…
The display board left out one thing: Aimless wandering through hundreds of display boards jammed with illegible writing, set up in a crowded, hot, noisy cafeteria or gym.

I love science. I hate preparing for and attending the science fair.

Anonymous said…
The science fair poster made me a little sad.

Our son and his geeky parents had fun with his science fair projects.

It's not for everyone, though, so I would agree that voluntary participation is a good thing.

- North-end Mom
Anonymous said…
My daughter and I loved making exhibits for Science Fair. It was one of the "funnest" activities I ever had as a parent. We looked forward to it every year.

-- Ivan Weiss
Another lesson said…
For years, I organized the Science Fair. I'd always have the "Scientist" stand next to their project. Students took ownership for their work, answered questions etc. It was a wonderful experience.

There was one student happily standing by his project with his multi-generational family. I asked the student about the project, but he didn't have any idea about his project. Clearly, the parents did the bulk of the work.

I consider this a success because it was a time of family unity, and it was clear this child was loved.
Ragweed said…
Another Lesson - My wife once won an award at the mental health agency where she worked for "Relentless Positive Reframing". I think you might be a candidate for a similar award.

Both kids said they think it is a good thing. The son said it was his favorite thing for the year, the daughter doesn't like preparing the presentation board, but does like the overall experiment. But they are at a school that teaches how to pace a project, and get started early (final data for the MS kids was due 3 weeks before the actual science fair).
Anonymous said…
I could really love science fair, I could. But they way our school does it, turns it into a rushed affair. Here is why it is not working well at our school.

There is never enough time provided to do many of the experiments. Especially if experiments fail the first time or require tinkering.

The planning work is done poorly. They get a worksheet to plan with. The teacher "oks" their project but there are too many kids in the class for any kind of meaningful mentoring to take place.

We end up spending too much money on the project. This is a really equity issue -- does not seem fair to some.

We end up spending way too much time on all of it. The presentation board becomes a gigantic fixation, taking hours to prepare.

Many parents end up being extremely involved. From experiment oversight to shopping, to Excel spreadsheet work, to presentation board letter cutting, etc., etc.

It could be so good, but it has been disappointing. Wish it were lots better.

juicygoofy said…
Yay, if it's voluntary or done at school. Nay, if it's mandatory and done with absolutely no teacher assistance (our experience for the past 4 years.)

A fantastic option is what I observed at Lincoln this year with friends. The parents, many of whom are actually scientists, prepared their displays and taught mini-lessons to students. Not every school, of course, has such a wealth of scientists, doctors and engineers, but it is a great idea to invite adults to share knowledge. (There were also voluntary student projects.)
Anonymous said…
juicygoofy said:

"Not every school, of course, has such a wealth of scientists, doctors and engineers, but it is a great idea to invite adults to share knowledge."

Of course. I really don't know what to say.

--A Plebe

Anonymous said…
Our elementary school did the whole science fair project at school. Each group of 5-6 students worked with a science professional from the community who volunteered to mentor during the school day. Displays were also created at school by the group. Parents were welcome to volunteer as a mentor or donate supplies to the school.

Then in middle school it was every child for themselves, working at home with whatever support their family could give. The child of the UW chemistry prof had a great project, so did my child, the child who was living in a car didn't. Families who couldn't put food on the table, couldn't buy science fair supplies. ELL families didn't know what a tri-fold poster board was. It was a stark illustration of inequity. I hated it. If it can't be done in class, then don't have a science fair.

Ekinnaj Jay said…
Our middle school provides the boards and as teachers, we will also provide materials for an experiment if the student can't afford it. Kids work in groups and the bulk of it is done at school. Some kids get into it, and some kids don't, but there is always value to the learning that takes place. And I agree with the person who said family unity. It is one of the only events we have in our school where we show case an academic event and we get a large turnout of proud families. Kids are to explain their project to any person who looks at their boards and I have never come across anyone who couldn't explain at least a portion of what they had done, which is Ok, because kids are unique and learn at different rates.
Anonymous said…
juicygoofy said…
A Plebe, I hear you.

In hindsight, I wish I would have phrased my comment differently. The point I was trying to make was that, as an outsider who has been frustrated by our elementary school fair, I was impressed with another school's model.

I liked the idea of parents and/or community members presenting real science to students.
Anonymous said…
I have a child at Lincoln, and we came from another school with very similar demographics which does not have a very big science fair.

The science fair at Lincoln is impressive. The school is larger so they do have a larger pool of parents for which to ask for scientific expertise, but most of the outside exhibitors are not parents. The teachers and science fair committee spend a lot of time working with scientific outreach organizations in the community to get exhibitions to come. It is probably the biggest event of the year, and gets a lot of faculty support, and also has the most parent volunteers of any event. But it's not that we just have a lot of science parents. :) I think there are more families with scientific expertise at our last school, but Lincoln does this outside thing.

-science parent
Over It said…
I shifted from being pro-Science Fair to becoming quite disenchanted about it with each passing year. The Whitman 6th grade was the best year -- it was new information for the young scholars and seemed purposeful. Every year after that it was just going through the drill and didn't seem to deepen student knowledge. The teachers didn't have the bandwidth to provide guidance -- so there wasn't much change between a 6th grade project and an 8th project for the vast majority of the projects. Science Fair was an eye opener -- it neither fair to families nor particularly effective after the first year the way it is currently implemented at Whitman. Lotta pain with very little gain. I was really jealous to learn that Hamilton cancelled Science Fair this year -- so overcapacity it was a fire hazard, I understand.

SPS either needs to embrace Science Fair and integrate into the daily science curriculum or just require it 6th grade year with lots of classroom support and after that, offer it as an optional voluntary activity.
Anonymous said…
My fifth grader is just finishing up her "science fair" project and it has been nothing but a giant hassle. First & foremost, group projects in elementary school should NOT be required to be done outside of school. That just equates to coordination & driving homework for parents (this an option school, so her assigned partners live nowhere near us). If the kids have to work in groups, then they need to be given time during the school day to do the work. They shouldn't need to give up multiple recesses if they can't find a day after school that works for all 3 kids.
Also, I just don't think they have enough scientific background to come up with good experiments. Most of them aren't evaluating any actual scientific propeties - they might do something & see what happens,but then there isn't any part of the assignment that involves looking at WHY it happened. I guess the point it to make them record data & write it up nicely, but it seems that with more guidance, there could be some actual science being taught along with the report writing.
Mom of 4

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