Science Fair is an annual event in which the school community gathers to celebrate the achievement and acquired knowledge of our youth in Science. Science Fair is an opportunity for students to apply the scientific method and to conduct independent research. The results of each student’s research is presented at the school Science Fair where the students efforts are displayed and where students are interviewed to determine scientific merit. Students are judged as to whether they used the scientific method properly and whether they have demonstrated thoroughness in their studies and research. Additionally, students are also judged on the quality of their display board to aid their presentation and they also submit a formal scientific paper. Further more, students will be led through inquiry-based curriculum aligned activities which are facilitated by senior students. This event is a school wide event which incorporates all grade levels as participants and facilitators.
SCIENCE FAIR – IT’S ROLE IN INQUIRY-BASED EDUCATION
Science Fair is an amazing learning opportunity for students which will provoke excitement and intrigue around Science related topics and issues. This event is an opportunity for students to unlock a part of science that truly engages them as individuals. The pedagogy that correlates with the values of Science Fair is Inquiry-based learning. At St. Bonaventure’s College our Science Fair is based on this pedagogical framework. This learning style is very beneficial to the transferable skill set that students develop as they engage in the scientific process. This type of learning is a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real-world problems and challenges while simultaneously developing cross-curricular skills as they work in small collaborative groups. Inquiry based learning is filled with active and engaged learning, therefore it inspires students to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they’re studying.
The overall benefits of inquiry-based Science Fair are outlined in a study conducted by Ritchie in 2009. This study encompassed an empirical analysis of students who participated in inquiry education experiences, one of which was Science Fair. This study resulted in the following conclusions related to skills acquired during the process of Science Fair: 1) an increase in student’s ability to focus on personal interests and therefore develop intrinsic motivation 2) students showed improvement in written and oral communication skills; 3) students showed an increase in time management skills; and 4) students showed an appreciation for flexible problem solving rather than committing to a prescribed problem solving method. One further conclusion from the study suggested that students are more likely to retain the knowledge gained through this approach as opposed to traditional textbook-centre learning.
These skills that are developed through inquiry activities, such as Science Fair, are also outlined in Bernard (2011)’s study, in which he analyzed students’ perspectives on authentic research. He states that “inquiry activities are important because they facilitate students understanding of science concepts and expose them to possess skills such as observing, measuring, classifying, testing, and prediction,” (p.52). When students use these skills they can develop the habits that are characterized by the scientific community. Additionally, these skills enrich and extend student success in Science and their overall understanding of the Nature of Science which will then enhance the students’ scientific literacy.
HISTORY OF SCIENCE FAIR
Science Fair as an event dates back to the early 1920’s. A non-profit organization, Society for Science & the Public, founded by Edward W. Scripps, a renowned journalist, and William Emerson Ritter, a California zoologist, were the originators of the concept. The organization began as Science Service in 1921 with the goal of keeping the public informed of scientific achievements. In collaboration with the American Institute of the City of New York and Science Service, by 1941 science clubs were established across the United States (History of Science Fair, 2012). The organizations began a Scientific Talent Search which grew into the National Science Fair by the 1950’s. Showboard, a website dedicated to Science Fair supplies, states that, “This soon became known as the International Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF), and is now the largest pre-college scientific research event in the world! Based in Washington, DC each May more than 1500 students from 52 nations are flown in to compete in the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair for scholarships, tuition grants, internships & scientific field trips” (Showboard, 2012).
Canada did not see its first Science Fair until 1959. Several cities, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Hamilton, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, all hosted fairs. From this the Canadian Science Fair Council was born. This council was intended to maintain communication and coordinate efforts toward improvements in Science Fair across Canada. In 1966, the Council was replaced by the Youth Science Foundation. The new organization had bigger ideas. They wanted to go beyond the Science Fair event and also create a support system for teachers that extended into the classroom. Additionally, they wanted to foster a better understanding of engineering and technology of and how these fields influenced our national and international affairs. In 1995 the organization changed its name to Youth Science Foundation Canada and in 2008 to Youth Science Canada (Youth Canada website).
SCIENCE FAIR PARTICIPATION
|Kindergarten – Grade 4||Participate in inquiry-based curriculum alined activities which are facilitated by Grade 9 Students. These activities will take place in the classrooms the morning of the Science Fair.|
|Grade 5 – Grade 8||Complete Science Fair work shop and projects to be judged for merit. Participate in inquiry-based curriculum alined activities which are facilitated by grade 11 and grade 12 students.|
|Grade 9||Facilitate inquiry-based curriculum activities for dtudents in grade K-4|
|Grade 10||Group leadership role, facilitate inquiry-based curriculum activities for students in grade 5 – grade 8.|
|Grade 11 – Grade 12||Facilitate inquiry-based curriculum activities for students in grade 5 – grade 8.|
Bernard, Warren (2011) What Students Really Think About Doing Research. The Science Teacher. November 2011. pp52-54.
Ritchie, Krista C (2009) The Process in problem Finding in inquiry education; A focus on students experience. PhD Diss., McGill University.
Science Fair History. (2012) Retrieved on May 28th, 2015. Retrieved from http://www.super-science- fair-projects.com/science-fair-history.html
Showboard, The Board of choice. (n.d.) Retrieved on May 28th, 2015. Retrieved from http://www.showboard.com/catalog/science-fair-history.html
Youth Science Canada. (2015) Retrieved on May 28th, 2015. Retrieved from http://youthscience.ca/about-youth-science-canada-0