Monday, March 14, 2011

Science fairs

We didn't do science fairs at school when I was growing up in the UK. I think they're a cool idea - though the quality of the projects can be extremely variable. I would have been incredibly stressed if I'd had to do one, thinking that I had to come up with something original. Nowadays there are books and, of course, websites where you can get all kinds of ideas for your project. It seems rather like cheating to me to start by Googling "Science Fair project ideas", but having seen some of the same experiments year after year ("A comparison of the relative strengths of different brands of paper towels") I would guess science teachers and science fair judges welcome anything that seems a little more interesting.

Of course, there are also the kids whose parents do the entire project for them. I remember one that involved hamsters, light sensors, and a computer program that tracked which side of the cage the hamsters spent most of their time. At least the kid was honest enough to tell us that he didn't really understand how it worked because his dad had put it together! I'm sure a kid following the directions for a published science fair project would have learned more!

Google has now taken the science fair one step further and has set up a global science fair "looking for the brightest, best young scientists from around the world to submit interesting, creative projects that are relevant to the world today." The submissions must be in the form of a 2 minute video or 20 slide presentation and include the following elements:
  1. About me/the Team: Initial introduction to the Entrant/Team and explanation of what winning would mean to them.
  2. Project question: The scientific question about their hypothesis.
  3. Hypothesis: Leading on from the question.
  4. Research and Works cited: The research conducted to help them shape their question and hypothesis and to put their work into a relevant, real-world context.
  5. Experiment: Demonstration, using good experimental techniques, including a detailed description of the experiment.
  6. Data: Collected during the experiment to support a conclusion, recorded accurately and precisely, and presented clearly.
  7. Observations: Description of the patterns or trends supported by the data.
  8. Conclusion: An explanation of how the experiment answers the question or why it fails to do so and whether or not it supports the hypothesis.
  9. Bibliography, References and Acknowledgements: References for sources of information that they have consulted and/or referenced and acknowledge any assistance received 
Wow! That's a lot to pack into 2 minutes! I do wonder how they are going to figure out which projects were really put together by the parents? There are some pretty cool prizes, like a trip to the Galapagos - my kids are too young, otherwise I might be tempted to push them to put an entry together ;-) If you're interested, you'd better get cracking as the application deadline is April 4th!


Expat mum said...

Last year the 7 year old did an outstanding job with amphibians - all on his own, I swear. This year he decided he didn't want to do anything because he wanted to go around listening to his friends. You could hear me whooping all over the planet!

geekymummy said...

Very cool! I used to judge the science fair at a local
Middle school and I loved it, kids can be so creative (yes and parents too!)

Maddy said...

Yup we are deep in Science fair mire also [ third time I might add] I don't remember anything remotely like it back home, but that's still pretty much a blur.

Love the knitting progress - I should probably get one of those myself.

About Last Weekend said...

Hi nice to meet you, came through Expat Mum, Jody here living in Oakland. Having been through my four kids doing nearly nine years of American school projects, I am now squarely at the stage of wanting to buy them off other families. I'm unfortunately not a parent who helps their kids so my kids always get quite low marks for them. Hooray for the parents who do love doing them - I have got my money out! (don't tell our teachers though...)

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