Science Fair

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by cby1224, Jun 2, 2014.

  1. cby1224

    cby1224 Companion

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    Jun 2, 2014

    The school I will be teaching at next school year is wanting to rejuvenate their Chemistry program including doing labs (labs haven't been done in several years) and requiring a science fair project to be done in the Chemistry course.

    Most of the work will be done at home and each semester (we are on a block schedule) the projects will be brought in for a grade. In late Feb. or early March we will host the county science fair and then winners can choose to participate in the regional science fair.

    I have a couple of questions about this though..
    Should I offer to store winners (from my Chem course) projects in my lab's storage room if they want to participate in the regional science fair?

    Also, how much should this project count toward the student's final grade? I was thinking 10%, but I am not sure if that is enough.
     
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  3. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    Jun 2, 2014

    Is the grade for a semester? I think 15% is plenty.

    And if you have room, store the projects. If not, tell them they are responsible for keeping up with them.
     
  4. chemteach55

    chemteach55 Connoisseur

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    Jun 2, 2014

    I have mixed feelings about science fair. One school that I taught at went all out and still has most of the winners at the regional fair and even having 2-3 projects that go to International every year. The girls work with a mentor and they really produce some great projects. The school that I am at right now require the students to do science fair but there is little work on teaching the scientific method and really helping the kids do a decent project. It actually takes a lot of class time and out of class time to produce a decent project. I just do not have the time to find mentors and did not have class time to work with them because the skills they should have learned for chemistry in earlier classes and I was always trying to play catch up and it did not help that we had 5 snow days in LOUISIANA and did not make them up. I am all for the if they are done well but I would say that 90% of our students do not take it seriously and most do not actually do any type of experiment and make up data the night before the project is due.
     
  5. cby1224

    cby1224 Companion

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    Jun 3, 2014

    lucy- Thanks for the reply. Glad to see I wasn't off to much on the grade. I think I will just require that the students keep up with the project. I really don't want to get into the "you stored so and so's project" and I don't think I have the room to store 75 (which will be the approximate number of students I will have over the two semesters).

    Chemteach- I guess that is my biggest concern. I truly think that if you are going to put the effort into doing something, you should give 100% and do it correctly. Also when you require something like this, there must be some classroom time and being honest, I am not sure how much time I have to use toward this. I know the admin wants this but I also think they are willing to work with me on time and getting it implemented. The staff/admin are and have been very supportive so far. They have also been very realistic about goals and what is really achievable by me the first year.
    The P has said to me that the Chemistry teacher, who retired several years ago when the program was thriving, was a genius about making this work. Since he retired, the program has went down hill drastically including the lack of labs (even virtual labs). The chemistry lab/classroom has been used as a storage room for at least 6 years. So there is a ton of work ahead of me, but lots of support to get it done.
    With all that said, I think I am going to contact some of my friends who are teaching Chem in surrounding counties.. see how they implement the science fair and go from there. I really like the idea/use of mentors for the projects. Since I am a career change I have made several friends in the professional science fields (especially the environmental sciences) that I can direct students to if need be.
     
  6. Briana008

    Briana008 Companion

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    Jun 3, 2014

    It sounds like you have your work cut out for you with just getting the lab up and running. Do you have any leeway when it comes to making the science fair mandatory this year or can you put it off until next year? I have been in the position of inheriting a non-functioning lab and had to build it up for my honors biology class, then this past year I had to ramp it up to the next level for AP Bio. What started as a regular classroom with one wall of cabinets and sinks is now a passable biology lab (I'd love actual lab benches and such, but that wasn't in the budget).

    There is NO WAY I would have been ready to support my students doing a science fair project while I was getting all that done. If I had highly motivated students that were used to doing a significant amount of academic work on their own, maybe. But my students would need support from me in terms of after-school help and lab space. If I made a science fair project mandatory, I would feel like I needed to offer some after school support in order to do it justice.

    Your school/students may be entirely different, but my advice would be to not try to take on too much in one year. When all is said and done, it took me 3 years to get my honors bio running the way I wanted, and I think those transition years were well worth it because I was able to make sure my students still got a quality education while I was overhauling their program. Not to imply that you wouldn't give them a quality educational experience--that may just be my own limitation!
     
  7. cby1224

    cby1224 Companion

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    Jun 3, 2014

    Briana- After checking with my other Chem teacher friends, I plan on offering a plan of implementation for the science fair. I do think the school/admin will work with me any way possible. I do think they want a plan of action though to guide us/me in the process. I think the main areas of focus this next school year should be to implement labs, create a pacing guide, and increase EOC scores. I haven't seen the actual EOC scores for Chem, but I do know they were not good.

    This school is a rural small school (as is the county). I spoke with the superintendent and the principal a few minutes ago and they are completely overhauling the lab for me. I am several hours away from the school and won't start until the 1st of Aug (as it stands right now) so just getting the lab/classroom ready will be a huge burden lifted off of me. There is a lab that is surplussing all lab glassware/equipment also. They are hoping to get all those items as well (as they have first dibs on them). The "genius" Chem teacher that was there several years before is helping with lab setup and supply selection.

    I am somewhat overwhelmed by the work that needs to be done still but I feel much better about it than I did yesterday. Just knowing I will have a usable lab (even if it needs some tweaking) is huge to me.
     
  8. RisyFLA

    RisyFLA Rookie

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    Jun 10, 2014

    Science Fair - Long

    I am a frequent Science Research mentor, Qualified Scientist, and State Judge. I totally agree with Brianna that this is a big undertaking. Here are some thoughts.

    Regional Fairs are typically tied to ISEF. If so, there is a huge learning curve for forms, and rules, and deadlines. Students need to be on that track from the beginning - you cannot predict who might really get involved and want to participate at the Regional event.

    You need to be in contact with your Regional Directors now (summer) so you can be prepared.

    The Regional rules FORBID chemicals from being used in a home environment. I meet students at the lab all weekend or arrange time in college labs because they cannot use 1M HCl at home.

    If the Regional Director does grant permission to work at home, with a qualified parent, they cannot bring home a bottle of H2SO4 from school. That means they order & buy all of their own supplies.

    Did I mention glassware? Hot Plates? Mixers? Scales? at home?

    Every chemistry experiment will require the presence of a Qualified Scientist ANYTIME they are experimenting. Some parents will be OK in that capacity, most will not.

    High School experiments can be expensive....materials, chemicals, displays (no one uses Elmer;s cardboard displays at regional). You will need to have a well stocked lab and frequent orders (hello Flinn scientific)!

    Our District, and many others, offer a COURSE in science research (fair). There would be no time to devote inside of a Chemistry or Physics classroom. Middle School students who often do not have this option, spend HUNDREDS of hours on their winning projects.

    Overachieving and competitive students will need access to university or science corp. facilities.

    That's my short list! Your Regional Director might be helpful in dissuading the school's approach.
     
  9. cby1224

    cby1224 Companion

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    Jun 10, 2014

    Thanks Risy. I love the idea of implementing a scientific research course. It would put these students so far ahead in post secondary science disciplines in our area and could also be used to do a mandatory science fair project. Thank you for that suggestion. I will definitely keep it in mind when it comes to implementing this! Our regional science fair is tied to ISEF and I will take your advice about contacting the regional director. It is on the to do list but it has fallen in priority (per the P and VP) as currently focus is improving EOC scores and implementing labs.

    I know there will be students who want to participate so I am sure for the first year or two it will be voluntary (maybe even extra credit worthy). I need to get a grasp on changing standards (NGSS and CC) and implementing those into a Chemistry class that could use some/lots of improvement.
     

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