by Kevin Nugent, Friends Middle School Science Teacher
What exactly is a science fair? You may be asking yourself, why not a science EXCELLENT? Have you ever wondered how many of today’s discoveries were found in a middle school science fair project?
Science, at its foundation, is all about exploration, cultivating the ability to think critically, and developing novel approaches to seeing the world. From the first day when students walk into the lab, we begin to think in terms of research methodology, the study of the ways to approach research and answering the “what ifs” and “whys”.
Do you remember the scientific process from your own school days? Science fair is unequaled in making the scientific process hands-on and completely student-driven and student-directed. The “scientific process” has come a long way from the days of starting at the “beginning” and systematically following steps until the “end”. At Friends middle school, it looks sort of like this:
Students learn concrete tools such as the relationship between independent and dependent variables, and the importance of maintaining constants. In the case of those students who will be attending the Denver Regional Science and Engineering Fair, they also learn how to interact and make presentations to outside professional regulatory organizations like the IRB (Institutional Review Board) and the SRC (scientific review committee) as well as how to collaborate on their experiments with scientists currently doing research at CU Boulder. Our students are interacting with some of the nation’s top scientists.
There are also some more covert skills that are being learned. There’s time management relative to a large multi month project, and working successfully with partners. Perhaps most important, our students are learning how to fail forward – the ability to have something not go at all how it should, perhaps on multiple occasions, and build the skills necessary to pivot, readjust, and continue to move forward. This resiliency is what Friends School students learn on a daily basis from preschool through 8th grade.
Friends middle schoolers choose their science fair topic and, using all these skills and the tools they have honed in science class, go for it. A few of this year’s science fair topics include:
- Testing the amount of bacteria left on hands from air drying vs towel drying
- The amount of vitamin C in conventional vs organic oranges
- Results on diastolic blood pressure before and after interacting with pets
- Whether organic or conventional fabric biodegraded faster
- Comparing mouth bacteria in omnivores, carnivores and herbivores
- The effect of symmetry on perceived attractiveness
- Comparing amount of air pollution in select front range cities
The list of compelling topics continues, the results are fascinating and we’d love to share them with you. Learn more about all of our science fair projects first hand as the students present their projects at the North Campus on Wednesday February 19, from 6:00-7:30pm. Many of these students will be advancing to the Denver Regional Science and Engineering Fair on February 26th where they will present their projects alongside middle and high school students from across the state.
Join me in wishing all of our scientists good luck. You never know which one of these projects might just lay the foundation to an even bigger discovery.