As the students enter the room, they take out their Chromebooks and respond to the Science Fair Feedback Survey on Google forms. As the students respond, I am able to view their feedback in real time. This gives me the opportunity to better prepare for the whole group discussion later in the class. It also provides the students with an opportunity to reflect upon their experiences while completing the project. This reflection time is important because the students will be asked to share their thoughts later in the class.
After providing the students with time to complete the survey, I explain the next project. As a summative activity for the science fair project, we host a science exhibit and invite parents, community members, and students in other grade levels to come and view our projects. In preparation for this exhibit of the science fair projects, I ask the students to create a question about their project and require that the answer to their question be found on their display board or heard in their presentation. These questions will be made available to the teachers from other grade levels who bring their students to view the projects. I have found that this makes the exhibit time more productive and valuable for the visiting students and my students as well because the questions can help serve as discussion starters.
After explaining the guidelines, I have the students all log in to a shared Google doc to type their question and the answer to the question. Some of the students have difficulty crafting their questions as they make them too specific or too general. For instance, one student question was "Was my hypothesis correct?" Once the students have typed their question, I ask them to have a neighbor check the question to see if it is something that could be answered by looking at the display board or speaking to the presenter. I remind the students to keep in mind that some of the experiments were similar, so the questions need to be unique enough that they can be answered by the information on only one display board. When the students have had time for a neighbor to review their question, we discuss the questions as a class, reading through the questions to make sure they can be answered. This video Scavenger Hunt Questions provides a review of the types of questions we discuss.
The students spent a significant amount of time and effort working on their science fair projects. It is important to honor and reflect upon that time and effort through the use of a discussion. This is a great way to acknowledge the students' efforts and provide them with an opportunity to debrief about the project.
While the students are working on developing their question, I review their science fair survey results in preparation for a whole class discussion. This video explains some of the Survey Feedback. I lead a whole class discussion and begin by asking the students about their favorite part of the project. Volunteers share their responses with the class and are encouraged to create dialogue between each other. As the students share their responses, I ask them to explain their answers by asking lots of why questions. For instance, if a students says that conducting the experiment was their favorite part of the project, I ask them why it was their favorite part. This provides me with a better understanding of them as individual students and provides deeper insight into their answers regarding their science fair experience. Once a student has shared, I ask the class if anyone would like to add to what has been said or if there are any questions for the student who shared.
While I begin the discussion by asking the students what they enjoyed about the project, I also ask them to tell me about the more challenging aspects of the project. When a student shares what they found challenging, I also ask them to discuss ways they did overcome the challenge or to reflect and think of ways that they could have overcome the challenge. This provides the students with an opportunity to share some of their frustrations about the project in a constructive manner that challenges them to think through ways to overcome future challenges. If a student is unable to think of a way to overcome the challenge they faced, I ask other students to share suggestions or ideas.
Finally, at the end of the discussion I ask the students to provide feedback and suggestions for ways in which I can improve the science fair experience within the classroom. I listen to their suggestions and we discuss their ideas. Over the years, I have incorporated several of their suggestions into the science fair process. This is important because it shows the students that they are valued members of the classroom and it helps them view me as a partner in the learning process rather than as someone who makes up work for them to complete. This process also provides them with a voice in the classroom and ownership over the activities we complete as some of their suggestions are applicable to other classroom activities.