It was the beginning of a new tradition at Summers-Knoll this year at our first ever Annual Science Fair! For the first time, our middle school students had an opportunity to present their hard work and show off what they have learned from the original science projects that they have been working on this spring. The 7th and 8th graders have all designed, implemented, and now presented, results from single variable experiments that each of them performed. Their projects covered a broad range of topics and disciplines, and ranged from the very technical, like "The Effect of Different Materials on the Diamagnetic Repulsion of Graphite", to the practical, such as the "Slip or Grip? The effect of chalk on rock climbing speed". Some examined topics from everyday life, like "Stressing About School. How does a timed test affect the heart rate of a student?", while others challenged the truth of widely held beliefs, like "Testing the Five Second Rule. How does the amount of time somethings spends on a surface affect the amount of bacteria it attracts?"
These experiments gave the students an opportunity to experience the scientific process from beginning to end. As in "real" scientific inquiry, each project began with a question. The job of each young scientist was then to design an experiment to carefully examine possible answers, and then, just as importantly, to communicate those results to others. That communication involves many aspects, from summarizing their raw data in an easy to understand graph or illustration, to using props and dialog to explain their experiment to live people in real time. At every step there is opportunity for learning to take place, but particularly in the last step, when the student becomes the teacher and educates others about what they have learned.
The fair was a great opportunity for the 5th and 6th grade middle students to preview the type of projects they will be doing in the upper grades, and to show off their own work as well. Each of the younger students have completed a special collaborative project that we call "New Species Discovery" (for details, see my previous post). Each student exhibited an original sketch of the unique animal that they "discovered" and classified, as well as their creative writing "Field Journals". In addition, many opted to also present some information about internal organs that we studied in science earlier in the year, and encouraged visitors to "Ask me about the heart!" or other organs that they have learned about this year.
Overall the fair was a big hit, and was the first of what will now be an annual tradition at Summers-Knoll. Congratulations to all of our middle school students on their hard work and success!