Open Thread: Sciency Stuff

The request:

Can we have a slacktiverse open thread about science fairs/projects/experiments/Olympiad or something?

The answer: Yes


11 thoughts on “Open Thread: Sciency Stuff

  1. storiteller February 27, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    As far as I remember, we only had one science fair and because I was and am a big honking nerd, I loved it. I actually had two different interacting parts of my project. It was supposed to illustrate circuits, so I had two different pieces that you touched together to light a light bulb. But because I was an overachiever, I made the lightbulb actually part of a model of an electric eel and surrounded it with facts about electric eels. It was pretty awesome.

  2. lonespark42 February 28, 2014 at 8:36 am

    OMG that is the best thing I have heard lately. Overachievers FTW! (Although, if you didn’t have an actual testable question to answer via experiment or observation, I would mark you down a bit. But you’d get superior marks on lots of other stuff…)

    I have stupidly decided to judge ALL THE SCIENCE FAIRS at elementary schools in my town. So basically giving up all my evenings for two weeks between the judging and my son’s fair and…stuff.

    The one I judged last night had the rubric thingy on ipads and when we were done with one we beamed it away somewhere. I bet that helps with the math, but it seemed pretty complicated to organize. Plus the tablet got heavy in a way I don’t remember experiencing with paper and clipboards.

  3. lonespark42 February 28, 2014 at 8:49 am

    When I was a child, in this same town, I don’t remember ever hearing about any science fair or anything. I think there may not have been one, since my next-door neighbor is responsible for starting them up at the elementary schools in the last decade.

    We had an Invention Convention, and the gifted class I was in was required to be in it and I hated it so much. Also once I had to wear and eagle costume to be the mascot and kids beat on me.

    I do plan to make my future students do science fair-type projects, but I will give them class time and materials as much as possible. I think you can’t really learn that much about science without actually doing science, but I am sensitive to issues involving family resources and also competitiveness. I kind of wish Science Fair was different. At least I would like to see them them give out awards/prizes to all the kids whose projects achieved a certain level. And also specific stuff for different categories, like the Environmental Science award or the Geology Award, or the Psychology award…

  4. froborr February 28, 2014 at 9:55 am

    Yeah, science fairs were definitely something the kids with money did, not us. I was always a little jealous–especially of my friend Tristan, who had a bunch of really impressive projects under his belt. (The best, IMO, was building a robot out of Lego Mindstorms that could sort Lego bricks by color.)

  5. lonespark February 28, 2014 at 10:29 am

    See, that confuses me, because it’s sounds like much more of an engineering project. Theoretically you can do engineering projects in ours, and it used to be called a Science and Engineering Fair, but no one seems to do those.

    It bothers me that it doesn’t seem like elementary kids get much science instruction in their everyday classes. Some do get enrichment activities or specialists, but not all.

  6. lonespark February 28, 2014 at 10:30 am

    And yeah, that has pissed me off every time I’ve judged a science fair. It’s great when kids can hook up with mentors who have knowledge and access to equipment. But if you’re not providing that to everyone, they shouldn’t be able to compete in the same categories.

  7. froborr February 28, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Very little actual science happened in the science fairs I’ve seen. But then, there’s very little science that kids can meaningfully do–there aren’t a lot of unanswered questions that can be tackled with the resources and knowledge available to a kid.

  8. storiteller February 28, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    Lonespark, our science fair wasn’t about experiments either, as Froborr is describing. Ours was supposed to be an exhibit or poster on a science concept, just like you would have an exhibit on a historical event. (Of course, on similar areas I went way overboard too, creating an actual plywood castle for an exhibit on England. My mother is a very patient woman.) I don’t think ours was competitive either, although it was graded. I would have loved to have done a more experimental one, but that wasn’t part of the assignment.

    As for robots, I was always a little sad that I didn’t find out about our high school’s FIRST team until it was way too late. I probably wouldn’t have done it anyway, as I did a lot of other activities and am not an engineer, but a lot of my friends did it and it looked really cool. I’m sure they could have used a communications person somewhere!

  9. Lonespark March 1, 2014 at 8:37 am

    I completely one thousand percent disagree that there’s little science kids can meaningfully do. They can make observations. They can measure things and test things. They can find out things that are new to them, to their classmates, their school, their community…They can confront and describe problems. They can come up with solutions, and these may be implemented if resources are available. That’s more engineering, often, but it depends, and they’re interwoven.

    If you mean very young kids may be limited in what they can do, sure, that’s true. Cross-grade partnership are super-awesome. Older kids inspire younger ones and model enthusiasm and inquiry, younger kids give them a chance to learn by teaching and provide a cool and relatable source of information and assistance.

  10. storiteller March 1, 2014 at 10:33 am

    Lonespark, I agree. Sure, there’s not a lot of “unanswered” big questions, but there are plenty of little ones. We did a long-term experiment in my graduate-level Stream Biology class where we gathered and analyzed bugs to see if construction in the stream had long-term effects and honestly, I could easily see doing a less technical version of that with upper-level elementary school students.

  11. Lonespark March 1, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Well, yeah, exactly. Environmental science and engineering is all about “How can we adapt general principles and proven designs to this particular site-specific set of circumstances?” I have to think lots of science and engineering is similar.

    And absolutely that is the kind of project that would be good. Unfortunately in some settings it’s difficult to get field trips approved/funded/etc, and there’s a lot of time devoted to standardized tests and so forth. But there’s always something you can do. Materials testing on the school’s crumbling bricks? Permeability and runoff studies on the parking lot? Temperature of school lunches? Plus all the frillions of things that tie in with kids’ interests and/or issues in the community…

    And if you don’t have the equipment to collect your data, you’re probably best off building it, which is fun and educational in itself.

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