Rethinking the Science Fair

Posted by Jilayne S on Mar 21, 2016 7:00:00 AM

Science Fair or Festival?
Science_Fair.jpgAn erupting volcano, film canister rockets, and color changing milk. These and so many more experiments you may see each Spring at your science fair. This year, I’m suggesting a change. Why not make your typical science fair into a festival? The following are some changes you can make to explode your fair into learning and fun for your students.

Plan the science festival to occur during school hours
Families that have working parents often do not have time to help their student create a stunning science fair project. Thus, many children do not or are unable to participate. If the festival was held during school hours,
all students would have the opportunity to be a part of this invaluable learning. The goal of a typical science fair is to inspire creativity, real-world curiosity, and motivation to solve problems. These are vital to all students, so an in-class science festival would be perfect. You can start with a theme or question to which all of your students can relate. It could even be a topic that you are currently learning in your science curriculum. Provide them with ample supplies or materials, and let them go!

Encourage collaboration
Science fair projects that are done at home may have the assistance of family members, but for real-world application, students should be working with their peers. Engage learners in the classroom by teaching them how to form groups, communicate with others, delegate tasks, and rely on each others’ strengths. All of these develop lifelong skills. Working collaboratively grows within students a sense of shared responsibility. In a world of technology, these face-to-face interactions also allow students to encourage each other in their learning and  suggest new ideas respectfully.  In addition, teachers are able to provide differentiated learning amongst the different groups.

Demonstrate learning without poster boards
Yes, you read that right. Get rid of the poster boards. Poster boards limit creativity. Students can create a Google presentation, create a board game their peers can play, perform a puppet show, write a song, or even start a podcast. The ideas are endless and the cooperative learning will promote student engagement.

Celebrate the learning
Invite family members and other classes to participate in the festival near the end of the learning. You may need to consider offering more than one time slot - a school-hours class time as well as an evening time to allow flexibility for all families. Students’ confidence increases when they are able to show off their learning to others.  Rather than the typical “walk around” method, the festival idea promotes interactive booths. For example, playing the game a group created about their learning, or playing a part in the skit that another group wrote. (And don’t forget to provide some refreshments!)So this year, go ahead. Be crazy. Change it up. And watch your students’ faces light up with discovery and enjoyment.  If you’ve got some great ideas to transform your science fair, we’d love to hear them. Share with us in the comments section.
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