Teachers, students, and parents who have participated in a science fair have different perspectives on the experience. Students may feel both excited and nervous as they choose their topics, develop the projects, and present their findings. Parents may remember their dining rooms turning into makeshift laboratories and design studios as crystals form, incline ramps are tested, and foamcore display boards are lettered and laid out. Meanwhile, teachers are grappling with two core questions:
- How can I organize all of my students when they are all doing different projects at the same time?
- How can I help my students while giving them the freedom of choice and independence of thought that characterize genuine inquiry?
These are the two core questions addressed in Science Fair Warm Up—Learning the Practice of Scientists. Author John Haysom developed a series of three grade-level versions for students (Grades 5-8, 7-10, and 8-12) and a Teacher’s Guide, available separately or as a complete set.
Science Fair Starting Points
Haysom explains that all students need a starting point from which they can build an understanding.
“As students work on a project, they will undoubtedly meet all sorts of problems: formulating ‘good’ (scientific) questions, measuring, designing good apparatus, devising good experiments, graphing, making sense of what they have learned, and so on. But they can get help along the way from the experiences in these books, from the teacher, and from their friends and classmates.”
Whether you have students who have never participated in a science fair before or have students who need to be more cognitively challenged, these books offer original investigations to help students develop the inquiry skills they need to carry the project through. A theme that resonates throughout the books is the practices of scientists. Regardless of the project selected, students are encourage to look at the scientific way of dealing with the problem at hand.
The idea behind science fairs is to allow students to experience genuine scientific inquiry. By becoming scientific problem solvers, they “gain an understanding of the art of solving problems (the nature of scientific inquiry), Haysom explains.
As the science fair process gets underway in your classroom and at your school, these books can help you enjoy the creative thinking of your students as you guide them through the process.
Consider these two additional NSTA Press® resources when doing your science fair planning: Science Fairs Plus: Reinvent an Old Favorite, Grades K–8 and STEM Student Research Handbook.