It is that time of year again. That’s right, SCIENCE FAIR!! I look forward to going to the district science fair and helping out in whatever capacity I can to make it a success. This year is no exception, fantastic projects were all over the place. There were over 670 projects this year! As I was walking around, I kept thinking, how can we improve on this process?

I know I am as guilty as most science teachers in that when we send home the sheet to the students to tell them the parts that are necessary for a “good” science project, it pretty much follows the scientific method. You must have a good hypothesis to start off I tell them. Geez, I would like to think I can do better with my kids in helping prep them for realistic science research. The scientific method is just not how things are done in real research. Real research does not happen in a nice, linear fashion. So how do I help move them into a better research and experimental setup?

Next year I am toying with changing the wording and approach of the information I use. I think I will be, and please share with me your thoughts, using the practices from Appendix F of the NGSS. To me that makes more sense.  Below, I lifted this part out of that Appendix.

We use the term “practices” instead of a term such as “skills” to emphasize that
engaging in scientific investigation requires not only skill but also knowledge that is
specific to each practice. (NRC Framework, 2012, p. 30)

1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
2. Developing and using models
3. Planning and carrying out investigations
4. Analyzing and interpreting data
5. Using mathematics and computational thinking
6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
7. Engaging in argument from evidence
8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

I would think, if they could show the above listed eight practices, that would help. I understand that we are still going to be needed to help guide their thinking in developing a testable question, but overall, I believe it would lead to a deeper project. I just can not see a project about which paper towel absorbs the most water being able to go through those eight steps.

To wrap up, next year, my students are going to have to work through their project using the eight practices, no more scientific method. Now I need your help to flesh out the details and issues with this idea. Thank you to any responses in advance!

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