By Sara Walsh
EPS Science Instructor
See a problem. Test it. Learn from it. This is the basic premise behind the scientific method, the fundamental reasoning technique used in science! Who among us hasn’t seen a question in our surroundings and wanted to know the reason behind it. For many people who want that immediate answer, Google is the solution to the problem. However there is much to be said for performing one’s own test, from designing it, to implementing, to examining the data.
This year marks the 10th annual 7-12 Elgin Public Science Fair. Since its implementation, it has continually changed faces. Student projects have proven to be more and more challenging. They involve new and changing technology. There is more cross-curriculum work among teachers; now a junior high student learns research methods and writes their science fair research paper as part of a language arts assignment. Throughout all the changes, the benefits of scientific study have remained the same.
Students benefit from the science fair process in numerous ways. First of all, it allows them to think about the world around them in a different light. Instead of taking their surroundings for granted, it forces students to question the nature of events and form questions regarding them. Secondly, it takes students through the logical problem-solving process of the scientific method. Individuals go through this thought process each day when they solve problems for themselves—whether it is deciding what clothes to wear in the mornings to what to eat for supper. Drawing conclusions from one’s choices is what allows a person to learn and grow in their thought processes. By taking students through this logical sequence of events, it is helping to emphasize and develop that problem-solving process.
The science fair also allows a student to explore an area of knowledge in which she may be interested but is not necessarily covered in any of her classes. It allows a student to take a topic that he wants to learn more about and delve into the subject matter more deeply. It pushes students to think about common scientific knowledge in more ways than what one would think about on a day to day basis.
Oftentimes the science fair projects chosen reflect students’ interests and hobbies and prove to be a foreshadowing of their college and career paths.
But the science fair process is about so much more than just science. It is about language arts when the students conduct research and present their findings in a research paper. It is about math when students measure, calculate, and graph findings. It is about technology when students use varying types of programs to report their results and create multimedia presentations for their exhibitions. It is about oral skills when students present and defend their methods and findings to visitors the night of the science fair. It is about being dependable while working with a group; it is about using technology methods they will use in their post-secondary education; it is about forming and reforming hypotheses, it is about challenging oneself beyond ones normal bounds. It is about developing skills and the responsibility students will need as they grow into competent adults.
One of the greatest joys I experience as a teacher is the chance to talk to alumni once they have left our doors and have entered life beyond. Oftentimes the memories that surface are those involving science fair. They remember their topics, their groups, their difficulties, and their successes.
To support these students in their quest for knowledge, stop by the Elgin Public gym next Monday March 26th from 7-9 pm and visit the annual science fair. You just might be surprised at what you may learn!
By Sara Walsh