Public Discussion

  • Icon for: Katherine McNeill

    Katherine McNeill

    Associate Professor of Science Education
    May 16, 2016 | 02:13 p.m.

    I am excited to hear more about the research! As you discuss in the video, some very different perspectives and models on Science Fairs.

  • Icon for: Leana Nordstrom

    Leana Nordstrom

    Co-Presenter
    May 16, 2016 | 02:24 p.m.

    Thank you! We have found the variety of science fair models in middle schools to be very interesting. We’re analyzing the data from our national survey now and are hoping to have results soon (and would be happy to share them with you). We’re also looking forward to next year when we are able to look at schools’ science fairs in depth. Thank you for your advice along the way!

  • Icon for: Susan Kowalski

    Susan Kowalski

    Senior Research Scientist
    May 16, 2016 | 06:11 p.m.

    Your study is really interesting. I’d be very interested to hear what models are working well and which could benefit from some modifications.

  • Icon for: Leana Nordstrom

    Leana Nordstrom

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2016 | 09:59 a.m.

    Thank you! We’re still in the process of data collection, but once we have analyzed the data, we plan to disseminate what we have learned on our website http://sciencefairstudy.edc.org/ and through other channels.

  • Icon for: Richard Hudson

    Richard Hudson

    Facilitator
    May 17, 2016 | 09:29 a.m.

    Deeper insights into the effectiveness of science fairs will be a valuable outcome of this project. Given the great diversity of fairs, how will the ones to study be selected. And is there any relationship with the long tradition of the ISEF middle-school and the national fair run by the Society for Science and the Public? (Broadcom Masters)

  • Icon for: Leana Nordstrom

    Leana Nordstrom

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2016 | 10:05 a.m.

    Our study focuses on the school-level fair. Schools are selected based on location,willingness to participate, grade-level (we are looking for grades 6-8; 6th graders need to participate in the science fair), and school type (public or charter). While we have been in touch with ISEF and Broadcom, our study is not focused on that level of science fair. Thanks for the question!

  • Icon for: Abigail Levy

    Abigail Levy

    Presenter
    May 17, 2016 | 11:27 a.m.

    In addition to all of the characteristics, we’re also selecting schools based on their science fair model – in particular, whether the science fair investigation is integrated with students’ “regular” science class or is a stand-alone experience. By location, we are looking for a distribution across the south, mid-west, north-east, and western regions of the country. To date we have 9 hubs distributed among these regions where we are focusing our recruitment efforts. We are also sampling across urban, rural, and suburban locales within each hub.

  • Icon for: Leana Nordstrom

    Leana Nordstrom

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2016 | 11:37 a.m.

    I should also mention we are still recruiting schools! Public/charter schools that include grades 6-8, hold a school science fair, and are interested in participating in our study can apply here: http://go.edc.org/sciencefairstudyapplication. We plan to wrap up this recruitment in the next few weeks, so schools should apply ASAP.

  • Icon for: Richard Hudson

    Richard Hudson

    Facilitator
    May 17, 2016 | 10:35 a.m.

    One of the very interesting questions related to science fairs in today’s world is the potential of social media. Students who do science fair projects sometimes won’t share their accomplishments on social media and others do. Will your data-gathering include this?

  • Icon for: Jackie DeLisi

    Jackie DeLisi

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2016 | 11:17 a.m.

    You raise an interesting point. Our study is measuring students’ interest in science and science careers as well as their understandings of science and engineering practices. In our pilot year we have not examined students’ use of social media as part of their science fair experience.

  • Icon for: Abigail Levy

    Abigail Levy

    Presenter
    May 17, 2016 | 11:27 a.m.

    That’s an interesting point! It didn’t come up as an issue in our pilot year, but if it surfaces among our case study schools next year we will certainly look into it.

  • Icon for: Jerry Valadez

    Jerry Valadez

    Facilitator
    May 18, 2016 | 01:36 a.m.

    Greetings presenters. Thank you for bringing this issue to the Showcase! Very interesting and timely study. Once upon a time I was a middle school science teacher put in charge of science fair. We started off being school-wide and over the years it evolved into something only selected students did in an elective class. This was supposed to give district leaders a point to make against the perception that their students do not win science fair awards. Sad. I remember one of my students showed on his science fair project how his grandfather built bird traps in his native Cambodia. I thought it was an amazing project and that a lot of engineering knowledge went into the design. Unfortunately it did not meet the guidelines for entering the regional science fair. There have been many more like this project that just don’t qualify. Many of the schools that do only site-based science fairs include community members as judges and also engage business and industry. Some of the judges come up with their own rubric for scoring and acknowledge efforts of all students.

    Are you including judges or the judging process as part of your study? That would interesting. Are you also including schools that do not participate in science fair at all? Would be interesting to look at questions about access and equity through science fair. Anecdotally I hear from colleges and former colleagues that NCLB has forced the shift to preparing for the tests, which does not include science. Are you doing a comparative study of the demographics of the schools that participate and those that do not?

  • Icon for: Jackie DeLisi

    Jackie DeLisi

    Co-Presenter
    May 18, 2016 | 11:50 a.m.

    Great questions, thanks. Yes, we are including judges and looking at the judging process. The judges’ provide additional insight into what students might be getting out of the experience and the aspects of the fair that might contribute to those outcomes. It’s also helpful to understand more about the role that competition might play in students’ experiences.
    Regarding your questions about equity and access, we are very interested in understanding who participates in science fairs, especially at schools where they are voluntary. In our current study we are not looking at schools that do not have science fairs, but a comparative study and a closer look at the sustainability of science fairs would be very interesting.

  • Small default profile

    Kim Kastens

    Guest
    May 19, 2016 | 12:43 p.m.

    I’m following up on Jerry Valadez’ anecdote about the student’s science fair entry about his grandfather’s building of bird traps in Cambodia, which had strong engineering design elements but did not fit the criteria for his school’s science fair. I am a geoscientist and served as a volunteer science fair judge in New York state. I found that many good-quality Earth Science projects could not be highly ranked within the judging criteria that we were given because they did not have a controlled and manipulated variable. The criteria as written strongly favored experimental studies over the methodical observation that is a mainstay of research in geosciences. I’m glad that you are including the judging process in your study.

  • Icon for: Jackie DeLisi

    Jackie DeLisi

    Co-Presenter
    May 19, 2016 | 02:57 p.m.

    Hi Kim, you raise an important point. We do ask teachers about the topics and kinds of projects that are included within their school’s science fair experience. We have not yet dug into the data from the judges that we collected during our pilot year, but this is certainly something we could pay attention to as we examine the guidance given to judges and the criteria they use. Thanks!

  • Icon for: Robert Tinker

    Robert Tinker

    Facilitator
    May 18, 2016 | 10:18 a.m.

    As a kid, science fairs had a huge impact on me. I participated in them for at least four years and never won a prize, but they provided a spur to do independent studies. I was lucky—I had use of Dad’s woodshop, both parents were scientists, and although they didn’t help me do the projects, they did give me indomitable self-confidence. I hope your studies can shed light on how more and more diverse students can participate in Science Fairs or similar activities.

  • Icon for: Abigail Levy

    Abigail Levy

    Presenter
    May 18, 2016 | 12:42 p.m.

    We’re hearing many and varied recollections of science fair experiences, some positive and others not-so-much. What we want to understand is what does it take to ensure that students have positive experiences like yours; especially more and more diverse students, whose parents aren’t scientists, etc. What features of the science fair experience are most likely to lead to positive outcomes for children? If we can learn that, then we have a better shot at ensuring that fair experiences will serve all students well.

  • Icon for: Leana Nordstrom

    Leana Nordstrom

    Co-Presenter
    May 18, 2016 | 03:41 p.m.

    We have a question for all of you! One of the challenges of our study is getting parents to participate in interviews & surveys. How have you been successful in recruiting parents to be involved in your studies? Parents, what would convince you to participate in a study?

  • Icon for: Jerry Valadez

    Jerry Valadez

    Facilitator
    May 22, 2016 | 04:24 p.m.

    I’ve not surveyed parents for research about science fair but in my current efforts with STEM in out of school time, I do survey parents of kids that participate in our community science workshop and in Family Science events. I offer snacks and coffee or any type of refreshments and then survey or interview. It’s best to make that a routine activity and then distribute surveys and do interviews over a period of time instead of all at once.

  • Icon for: Leana Nordstrom

    Leana Nordstrom

    Co-Presenter
    May 22, 2016 | 05:09 p.m.

    Thank you! We appreciate the advice/insight. We’re going into our full data collection year next school year, so want to have a plan in place for encouraging parents to participate.

  • Icon for: Leana Nordstrom

    Leana Nordstrom

    Co-Presenter
    May 19, 2016 | 02:04 p.m.

    What impact (bad or good) did participating in a science fair have on YOU?

  • Icon for: Jerry Valadez

    Jerry Valadez

    Facilitator
    May 22, 2016 | 06:14 p.m.

    After many years of involvement as teacher coach, judge, awards ceremony MC, etc., the impact on myself is mixed. I do see the rationale for supporting those kids who do significant research and are on the pathway to STEM careers or as professional researchers. I’ve seen some phenomenal students who put everything they have into the competition for awards and recognition. But there is also the majority of kids who also put everything they have into the competition but fall short due to lack of support, resources, and expert mentoring. Many are then discouraged to try again. This is why the school-based science fair is important as a pedagogical strategy to be institutionalized, just as extra-curricular sports have been institutionalized. Establishing a science or engineering identity in all children should be as important as establishing a sports identity in some children.

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.

  1. Abigail Levy
  2. http://www.ltd.edc.org/people/abigail-levy
  3. Co-Director
  4. Science Fairs Under the 'Scope
  5. http://sciencefairstudy.edc.org
  6. Education Development Center
  1. Jackie DeLisi
  2. Research Scientist
  3. Science Fairs Under the 'Scope
  4. http://sciencefairstudy.edc.org
  5. Education Development Center
  1. Leana Nordstrom
  2. Science Fairs Under the 'Scope
  3. http://sciencefairstudy.edc.org
  4. Education Development Center

Science Fairs Under the 'Scope
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Science fairs are a rite of passage for many school-age children. Yet in spite of their wide implementation and long history, there are few empirical studies that have examined the relationship between student participation in these fairs and their learning and interest in science. Additionally, there have been no studies to understand the real cost of these programs relative to the student benefits. Our 4-year study will be the first step to understanding the implementation and effectiveness of middle school science fairs in the United States.