Science Fair is a big deal around here, and the October kickoff can often be a time of confusion and fear. To help you get a better understanding of where we are i the process and what is happening, please read the information below:
In 6th grade I have been working with the class as a whole and each student individually to walk them through the steps of the science fair. My expectation is that the student will do 100% of the work with support from families falling in to two categories. First, discussion. Families should talk about their students question, background research, hypothesis, methods, and results. The following questions may help spark conversation:
- How did you choose your question?
- What problem do you think your results might solve?
- Could your results have an impact on people outside of your classroom/school/county/state/country?
- What supplies will you need?
- How much of each item will you need?
- How long will it take for each iteration?
- How many iterations do you need to do?
- How might XYZ relate to XYZ?
- What variables are you isolating?
- What might happen if you one of those variables changed?
- What search terms will you be using to do background research?
- How did your background research help you understand your problem?
The next step will be background research. We will compile a list of search terms in class, and we may be able to do the research in school. If not, it will be assigned as homework. As students research, they will be taking notes in their science notebooks. It is MANDATORY that all students write everything related to their science fair project in this notebook. Anything written elsewhere will have to be transferred.
From there, students will design and then, upon approval of their procedure, begin testing.
What Makes an Excellent Scientific Question?What makes a good scientific question/ purpose?
- It cannot be answered with “yes” or “no”.
- It doesn’t use the words “I” or “you” (or any form of them).
- It can be researched through experimentation.
"Why is that a rock?" is not as good a question as "What are rocks made of?"
2. A good scientific question can be tested by some experiment or measurement that you can do.
In this case "Where does the Sun come from?" is not as good as, "How will human skin, covered with SPF 30 suntan lotion, react to solar radiation compared to skin not covered with suntan lotion?"
3. A good scientific question builds on what you already know. "Will fertilizer make grass grow greener?" is not as good as, "What types of fertilizer will make grass grow greener and not cause harm to the environment?"
4. A good scientific question, when answered, leads to other good questions. "What is HIV?" does not lead to as many other questions as, "How does the HIV virus cause the human immune system to malfunction?
The questions above ask What and How in a way that focuses in on the specific problem to be studied. These questions frame a problem in a way that can be tested.
For example, an example of a good scientific question about salmon might be:
"What is causing the forest bordering the streams to be unhealthy and no longer support salmon runs?"
Over the course of the next two weeks, students will be researching background information to support their science fair question. This research is due October 29th with an approval form filled out and then signed by a parent. We will have some time in class to work on it, but a small amount of time at home will also be required.
What should they be researching?
Background research is the opportunity to educate themselves about their topic. For example, if I were doing a project on the effect of essential oils on classroom management, I would research history of essential oils, types of essential oils, how smell works, different types of diffusers, and student behavior.
We will brainstorm key words that they should search in class on Monday. As they search, students have been instructed to write the search term on a clean page in their science fair notebook, followed by the number of items returned, and then the URL of any site visited. The rest of the page should be used for summarizing important facts found at that site. A minimum of 2 pages per search term should be used, with a minimum of 4 search terms total. Below is an example of what a page for one search term should look like.