It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Science fair, oh dear!! These two powerful words bring a mixture of torment and dread sprinkled with excitement and tears…and maybe smelly eggs or brine shrimp. Science fair at my school is a SERIOUS undertaking and definitely NOT for the faint of heart. At the end of science fair, the end results bring so much pride from students. Our teaching staff contribute blood, sweat, and tears by the gallons to make the magic happen. Our school’s science fair is 100% contingent upon teacher help after school for a solid month or more. It’s hard work. The amazing results make us all come back for more every year.It takes me a solid month just to prepare the forms, order boards, beg teachers to help, and decide on the schedule for when teachers can stay after school to help. At our school, many of our families completely rely upon the teachers to help the students from start to finish with their experiment, poster project, and presentation. We do get a few precious volunteers and parents to help out usually.
Each year our schools’ science fair morphs a bit. The first year, we had no idea what to expect and didn’t know the interest from the students, so we invited 1-6 grades to participate. That was definitely a learning curve, especially with our 1st graders who needed the most help. AND many of the experiments were done at school since many of our parents aren’t able to help. (Those teachers haven’t helped since. I think it was OVERWHELMING!!!!)
This year we honed it down to 3-6th graders. I changed the structure, so I assigned a group of about 12 students to 2 teachers. The teachers worked with the same students throughout the project. Because of scheduling complications, some teachers worked with their students on Wed & Fri for a month while some teachers worked with students Tues through Thurs for two weeks straight. There is always something exciting. We giggled that the vegetarian teacher had cow liver and blood in her classroom for a chemical reaction lab. Ewwwww. #teacherwastraumatized
Since our school opted out of the district science fair, ours looked different. We had a judging day where ALL participants presented their project within 2-3 minutes to a panel of 8 judges. The kids were amazing and mostly extremely prepared. I was so impressed and reminded why I love working with these kids as a teacher. The judges had a rubric and all voted on first, second, third places in each grade. BUT the students had to come to the family science fair night the following week to find out results.
The night of of our family science night was a memory I hope never to forget. We had an AMAZING turnout.Families packed the hall 15 minutes before starting time. I asked our Student Council kids to help lead the night. We had long tables on the perimeter of the gym, and all the trifolds were placed on the tables by grade. One of the coolest features of the night was that I set up an electronic voting application through Microsoft Forms and linked it back to my website at Science Station. Attendees used their smart phones or IPads to link to an electronic form to vote. For family night, we awarded trophies to ONE team in each grade. The award was for People’s Choice. The science excitement thrilled my scientific soul. Again, I was reminded how powerful teaching is and how education truly changes lives. My entire soul believes that education breaks the cycles of poverty. That’s why I work hard. I believe if I can hook a few kids onto science, then poverty cycles will be broken. #Iheartscience
This year I decided to give a few special awards: Most Improved Scientist, Future Einstein Award, Best Technology, Best Engineering, Best Math, Most Creative, Best Teamwork. For the Most Improved Scientist award, I gave this trophy to a wonderful Hispanic student whose mother died a few years previously. He came to me at the beginning of 5th grade with limited English skills. 1 1/2 years later, he loved science and became a top performing scientist for me. I adore this kid who wanted to do a project on how plants grow on Mars. =) He received People’s Choice award, a tie for 1st place with judges, and Most Improved Scientist award. He teared up as did others in the crowd. Science truly changes lives. This little guy made two months of blood, sweat, tears and cow liver all worth it.