Traditional Science Fairs Are Played Out

Science Fair - that time of year that is “for” the students, but the teachers and parents are the most stressed.  Trying to find a project idea that is competitive enough for your child to beat out every other student in their class requires a ton of work.  Parents wind up doing a lot of the grunt work and making sure that their child’s project is top notch.  Although it is important for our students to experience competition, it is equally important that we recognize the research and hard work necessary to do a science project.  My hope is that we will eventually move away from science fairs and move towards STEM symposiums because let's be real - traditional science fairs are played out. 

Symposium - a formal meeting where experts discuss a particular topic

Students doing STEM projects and research are “experts” in the most general sense of the word.  Students put in the work, researching information about their topics, establishing important details that will enhance their work, and creating innovative ways to test their topics. 

How can we ensure that our students are the experts who are creating ways to change the world around them? Below is a six step process for revamping the scientific process and enabling students to be more creative in their thought processes. 

Step 1: Wake Up!

Have students write down a list of five problems or issues that affect the lives of them, their family, or their communities.  

Guiding Questions

1. What is a problem that affects your daily life?

2. What is a problem that affects your parents or family as a whole?

3. What is a problem that affects your community?

Step 2: Who's To Blame?

Have students create a list of things that can be the key causes for the problem.

Guiding Questions

1. Why does this problem exist?

2. Who/What has caused this problem?

Step 3: Focus On One

Have students select 1 of the problems they listed.  

Guiding Questions

1. Which of the problems affects you or your family the most?

2. Which of the problems is the most intriguing to you? 

3. Which problem will have the most significance if a solution is created?

Step 4: Solve It!

Have students create a list of innovative ways they can use STEM to fix the problem they have selected. 

Guiding Questions

1. How can you use STEM to solve the problem?

2. What resources will you need to solve the problem?

Step 5: Research

Have students research all possible solutions the problem as well as any STEM information related to the problem. 

1. Are there any solutions to the problem that already exist? If so, how you can you enhance those solutions?

2. What problems may arise with your solution?

3. Can your solution be done so that it solves the problem for all individuals affected?

Step 6: Plan It Out

This is where the scientific method or engineering process should begin.  Students should go through the typical method and determine a way to test their solution to determine if it will actually work.  This will allow students the opportunity to go back to the drawing board to perfect their process. 

Guiding Questions

1. What are you trying to test? 

2. What is your hypothesis?

3. What materials will you need for this experiment?

4. What steps will you take to test your hypothesis?

5. What conclusions arose after your experiment?

Once students have completed this final step, then they can begin to compile a presentation where they are truly the experts on their topic and are providing a way to intersect STEM and Social Change.  

More information on this topic is soon to come! Join our mailing list for a copy of the PDF copy of the student and teacher guide for creating innovative STEM and Social Change projects.