I love to start the lesson by projecting the following picture on the board. (Found on reddit.)
If it's true that there's a grain of truth in every jest, then this will make your students laugh until they hurt!
We all know that science projects can be painful if done improperly (e.g., sending mom to the store for baking soda at 11 o'clock the night before, taking on a project that can't be implemented at home, fighting with mom to make it your project and not hers, wrestling your experiment out of your dog's mouth after leaving it on the counter, or realizing your project is a bust on the morning that it's due).
After giving the students a minute or two to process the picture, get a good chuckle, and maybe make a snarky comment or two, I ask who can relate to it. Most will raise their hand, even if they had an easy time with their experiment, mainly because they don't want to be the kids who actually admit to liking science. However, some really do find this process stressful and even painful. I encourage my students to volunteer their frustrations and/or trepidations about their science fair project. Then, I explain that we will spend some time today learning how to be successful at finishing their project and creating a presentation board without the tears!
I have the students pass out the Science Board Notes Sheet, while explaining that the students will watch two videos to help them learn about how to prepare their science fair board. I have already pre-cut the sheets into thirds (on the dotted line) to conserve paper.
They can use the blank space on the right side of the paper to take notes as they watch. On the left side of their paper they can sketch the design of their board as they learn more about proper placement and design. (Students can also visit the Interactive Science Fair Board Tips, by Discovery Ed, for extra tips and support.)
While I start by having the students watch the videos and take notes independently, we review them again as a class, so we can discuss questions and highlight key ideas as they arise.This is a great opportunity for me to provide specific directions to the students that they may not have gleamed from the videos, or to provide immediate feedback regarding students' individual needs or concerns.
Next, we read through the "Science Fair Presentation Do's and Don'ts", another resource by Discovery Ed. As a class, we discuss the purpose and importance of each tip.
I ask the students to select three of the most important tips they want to remember as they begin to prepare their board and write these on the back of their Board Notes handout. While there are a lot more they could - and probably should - make note of, I don't want to overwhelm them. After all, the purpose of this lesson is to decrease the pain and stress associated with science fair projects, not add to it!
In this lesson, students will assess themselves on their final presentation board prior to bringing it to class, using the Science Fair Central student checklist. I give each student a copy to take home, and have them check their work for completeness against both the notes they took today and the checklist. They will mark off the criteria they feel they have met, and then tape these documents to the back of their boards as a visual reminder of the project expectations.
Students will also provide feedback to each other through the use of a Wow and Wonder feedback form. Every time a students presents, their classmates fill out the form, listing their "Wows", or the things that impressed them about their classmate's experiment, board, or presentation. They will also list their "Wonders", or things the students was confused about, had further questions about, or even constructive criticisms that the students can write in question or "wonder" form. (Example: I wonder if your project would have been easier to implement if your hypothesis was more specific.)
Check out some of the students' work!