Each year my 8th grade class gets involved in a year long research project that culminates in a Science Fair. The approach I use has students spending the first 2 months of school going through a topic approval process followed by, in November, an oral presentation to the class explaining their pre-lab design.
Students then begin writing a Literature Review paper in which I incorporate the help of English teachers and the librarian as this serves as a platform for our school to teach students proper research rules, techniques and formats. Through this process I have students submit weekly “online slide-notes” that are Power point files on which the left side is their source information and the right side is their summarization along with the MLA citation information at the bottom of the slide. I also share these slides on the school server with the English teachers. They in turn give them a grade on the first rough draft based on their classes’ criterion and help guide them from their end. In February the final paper is due.
Students data collection is due in March and the Final Report is due in April. This year we will be submitting our projects to the Google International Science Fair as well. Throughout the school year classroom skills translate into the project, including how to make and present graphs, statistical analysis for significant difference using Excel, how to write science discussions based on the analysis of one’s graphs, proper referee journal formatting of reports, use of data loggers and probes, and oral speaking skills.
The format for the science fair has students arriving early at 7:30a.m. and setting up their displays and being professionally dressed for their interviews. Posted on the wall is a time table of their appointments. Students have a 15 minute interview one on one in a quiet room or section of a library where they dialogue with the judge in a Q&A session demonstrating their experiment and expertise. During this time classes and parents are visiting the display boards with students explaining their science. Each of the judges top 2 finishers move onto the finals round where they will interview with each of the other judges throughout the day. Finalist are announced the following day in a school assembly. Though the project is involved and runs the course of many months, the students' intrinsic joy and personal growth are testimony to its invaluable benefits on many levels. The confidence a student gains from the process serves a lifetime of returns.