Science fair is giving me a headache!

Discussion in 'General Education' started by lucybelle, Jul 21, 2013.

  1. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    Jul 21, 2013

    Our school has a science fair every year, and since I'm basically the main science teacher I'm the lucky one who has to deal with everything.

    This year they've decided that only 1st-6th grade will do the science fair and the 7th-9th graders will do a separate project. Cool.

    Last year I noticed that about 95% of the younger kids had parents do their project for them (which drives me CRAZY) even though almost every day I told them not to do that. And most of the projects were research projects, not so much scientific method projects.

    This year, I was also told I have to give them class time to complete the project. Which totally pisses me off since I only have the kids for two 80 minute classes a week. I'm still going to fight this because it sounds like a disaster in the making (only some kids bringing stuff to work on, taking up too much time to set up & clean up, where to keep the supplies, etc :dizzy:)

    Does anyone have any ideas on how to improve the science fair? I feel like the science fair is basically a huge waste of time, the kids don't like it either. I would much rather have the kids do a project based on something we were doing in the class. Should I allow them to do research projects?
     
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  3. thirdgradebuzz

    thirdgradebuzz Comrade

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    Jul 21, 2013

    At our school, they are encouraged not to do research projects. IF they do a research project, they have to have a model with it. We used to do the projects in class, but for the last few years they have had to do them at home. Yes, this ends up with parents doing a lot of the work, but the judges take that into consideration when making their decisions.
     
  4. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Jul 21, 2013

    I don't think science fairs are wastes of time at all. It gives the students a chance to conduct a scientific investigation on a topic of their choice, rather than what the teacher chooses.

    I think a large part of it comes down to teaching students explicitly how to conduct a scientific investigation.

    You can give them a rigid format to fill out so that they follow the scientific process, and is it possible to make it part of their grade?

    As for parents doing the work for them, haha, I really have no solutions for that. While I agree with you that it would be tough to do a lot of it in class, perhaps that will help you solve your parent problem as well though. Instead of doing the large body of the project building in the class using their materials and such which they may or may not bring, you can make the kids responsible for doing the background research and writing in your class. That way you can ensure they are at least doing SOMETHING.

    One way to facilitate is to have a bunch of smaller deadlines. Like the background research/brainstorming part of the project is due by one date (and kids can work on this in class). They can do the materials and building stuff at home, which will be due by another date. And then have another due date for their analysis or conclusions, and they can complete these in class as well.
     
  5. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    Jul 21, 2013

    Last year I specifically told them to NOT do research projects. And the day of, tons of kids had them. I had never taught elementary before so I thought well maybe doing an actual scientific method project is too hard for them?

    The reason I thought last year was a waste of time was because of all the research projects and obvious parent "involvement". In the end it was like, well ****, the kids didn't do anything, they didn't learn anything, and they didn't do the scientific method! What do I do then? Fail all the kids?

    Last year I gave out a rubric and one of the biggest parts was following the scientific method. But since only 5% of the kids actually did that, what can I do?

    I like the idea of small deadlines. But I just feel so overwhelmed trying to plan for 9 preps a week, one of them being English which I'm terrible at teaching and takes up so much time to plan for since I have no idea what I'm doing. And then I need to approve and keep track of science fair stuff too? Ugh!:help:
     
  6. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Jul 21, 2013

    Fail all the kids. :whistle:

    I wouldn't have any problem doing this because I gave them directions and a rubric and they didn't follow it. Maybe the kids will blame their parents, for not following the directions, but they weren't supposed to have their parents do it anyway.

    I don't know what you can do about all of your preps and having to run the science fair. Sorry! :dunno:
     
  7. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    Jul 21, 2013

    Thanks for the advice guys! So I found a great science fair rubric online that included "student involvement". I'm going to email the rubric to all parents and hopefully this will discourage parents from doing the project for the kids.

    I also started writing up due dates, so far I only have two- question and hypothesis, & experiment procedure and material list. Should I make another deadline the week before it's due for the data and conclusion?
     
  8. muinteoir

    muinteoir Companion

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    Jul 22, 2013

  9. BioAngel

    BioAngel Science Teacher - Grades 3-6

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    Jul 24, 2013

    I think science fairs are meant for older elementary students- I'm talking like 5th and 6th grade. The younger students are simply not well-prepared to run an experiment by themselves in a way that would be beneficial for their learning (and you're seeing this by parents doing the work for them).

    For the younger students, could you gear it towards a partner project and have it based on a topic discussed that school year (to help extend learning on the units taught)? For example, I broke my 5th grade class up into groups of 2 and they had to design an experiment based on chemistry. Questions (generated by the students) ranged from "Can you clean pennies with hot sauce?" to "Can you blow up a watermelon with vinegar and baking soda?" . Students brought in the materials themselves and tested it over 1-2 class periods and then designed a book to showcase their work- experimental question, hypothesis, procedure, data, results/conclusion.

    1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade could do a class experiment together to help save on supplies, time, and room space.

    As for using class time, talk to your fellow teachers and explain what's going on. Perhaps they could assist with the writing up of the work- maybe an English teacher could take some time to help students. I have to use class time to help my students with their experiments (I usually only do this in 6th grade now), but I use class time to help teach them what they need to do and to work on examples/answer questions and for homework they have to work on their actual experiment parts.

    I love science fairs but they are a headache! If I can be of any assistance please feel free to pm me :)
     
  10. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

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    Jul 24, 2013

    Can the younger students do a class project and 2-3 people can present it? That's what I'm doing with my kids this year. It was a DISASTER trying to track 12 separate scientific method projects. World's longest migraine.
     

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