#HamstraHighlights

Leadership · Curriculum · STEM

#HamstraHighlights

Judging the Science Fair

Recently, I was invited to be a science fair judge.

I could barely say thank you before asking about the very important details, you know… like criteria for judging, rubrics, and awards. Other than that, I was all set for a while. After all, that’s what a science fair is; that’s what a science fair’s all about. Right?

I mean, really. When you think of a science fair, what comes to mind?

Lemme guess: tri-fold boards, the scientific method, projects and ideas borrowed from the Internet, and varying amounts of parent “support” where available.

I gotta say… I’m right there with you.

Or, at least I was.

Yes, I, too, love things like science, projects, explosions, reactions, STEM, PBL, and a ton of other education acronyms. Yet, this particular gig grew into so much more than a favor to a colleague.

Perhaps, this science fair’s medium changed the message. Indeed, the online platform brought together four judges, nearly a dozen committee members and planners, and student presenters who most likely wouldn’t have been in the same room or space. Ever.

In addition, I believe that the upper elementary presenter’s age is such that an innate, intrinsic curiosity still remains, even if just a little bit. The love of learning hasn’t been schooled out of them yet. They didn’t have to do this. They wanted to. They showed up!

As a judge for this elementary school’s virtual science fair, the only information I was given up front was that I’d have an opportunity to ask students questions after their presentations. That’s it.

This would be interesting. And nothing like my previously held version of…

The Science Fair.

Presentation Skills

At first glance, presentation skills leave an indelible first impression.

But things like public speaking, interpersonal communications, and presentation skills–for better or for worse–aren’t on the traditional science fair rubric. Therefore, as a judge, I would strike that from the record.

Perhaps, this part could always be addressed through coaching after the science fair is over.

Digital Citizenship

Anytime you research–especially online–you’ll find a ton of false information.

But things like filtering fake news, verifying science facts through multiple sources, and digital citizenship–for better or for worse–aren’t on the traditional science fair rubric. Therefore, as a judge, I would strike that from the record.

Perhaps, this part could always be addressed through coaching after the science fair is over.

FAQs

I was the fourth (and last) judge to ask students questions after their presentations. After hearing the other three judges have their turn, I was incredibly shocked, confused, and rerouted.

But things like connecting on a personal level, praising the positive, having conversations with kids, probing beyond the scientific method, addressing false information, connecting past-present-future, inquiring beyond the project, providing meaningful feedback, and transferring science fair concepts to everyday life–for better or for worse–aren’t on the traditional science fair rubric. Therefore, as a judge, I would strike that from the record.

Perhaps, this part could always be addressed through coaching after the science fair is over.

Process Over Product

As a scientist yourself, by now, you’ve picked up on the pattern.

What’s fair about science has little to do with finish line products.

What’s fair about science has everything to do with starting line processes.

Less products, more processes.

Less judging, more learning.

Less structure, more people.

Less events, more experiences.

Less destination, more journey.

Perhaps, this part could always be addressed through coaching after the science fair is over.

I absolutely loved this whole experience of “judging” the science fair.

Blogger’s Note: Update! I got to co-present with all the fellow judges from Dr. Heather Kaiser‘s Virtual Science Fair at STEM Con & Beyond today (April 19, 2021). See below. End Blogger’s Note.

What are your thoughts? Comment here!

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