Teachers weighed in recently to let Science Buddies know about science events and projects at their schools and how Science Buddies fits into the science education puzzle in their classrooms.With more than fifteen million visitors each year, Science Buddies has been making a difference in the science project and science fair experience of K-12 students, teachers, and parents for more than a decade. The non-profit science education company knows, however, that to best serve its core community, its resources, programs, and site offerings must remain aligned with the changing needs of the K-12 classroom.
To ensure that the offerings remain robust and in step with current classroom strategies, approaches to science pedagogy, curriculum standards, and ongoing science research and development, the organization evaluates and updates existing materials on an ongoing basis. This process of internal self-assessment and realignment of existing materials happens even as new resources are under development by a team of in-house scientists and, at times, experts and collaborators at sponsor companies and partner labs and universities.
Keeping the Science Buddies library of more than 1,200 Project Ideas fresh and exciting to engage students in hands-on science and give them the opportunity to explore both classic and cutting edge areas of science is important. But ensuring that Science Buddies resources align with ways in which teachers are approaching hands-on science in their classrooms, at school science events, and in guiding student participation in science competition is critical to fulfilling Science Buddies' mission.
Asking for Teacher Feedback
Science Buddies wants to make sure its resources meet and exceed the needs of teachers and their students. One way to make sure this is happening, and to maintain a holistic view of the way Science Buddies fits into the picture of science education at the school by school level, is to talk to teachers and find out what they are doing at their schools in terms of hands-on science and how Science Buddies and the resources and tools at www.sciencebuddies.org contribute to their (and their students') success with science.
With support from the Medtronic Foundation, Science Buddies recently invited K-12 teachers in the Science Buddies community to grade Science Buddies by responding to a survey about ways in which teachers and students are using Science Buddies, the kinds of science events that happen at their schools, and the features they find most exciting from a list of enhancements being considered by Science Buddies.
By and large, Science Buddies received a gold star from the teachers who responded to the survey.
The Value of Hands-on Science
The results of the survey support the importance of hands-on science, with the majority of respondents reporting that they do hands-on science of some form with their students. More than 50% of the respondents teach at a school that holds a science fair or public exhibition of science projects, and almost 23% have a "family science night" at school. Almost 62% of the respondents note that they do hands-on science experiments in class, and even in schools where there is no public showing of science projects, 24% report that their students engage in independent science projects (without a fair). Less than 4% of the teachers who responded report that they do no hands-on science with their students.
For the teachers who report assigning science projects and doing hands-on science exploration in the classroom with their students, the value of hands-on, immersive activities as part of science education is abundantly clear. Teachers strongly correlate hands-on science with increased interest in science and increased learning. Asked about the after-effects of doing an independent science project, teachers overwhelmingly replied that they agree or strongly agree that students are inspired to further explore science (78%); learned something new about science from the experience (91%); learned more about independent, dependent, and control variables (85%); learned more about the scientific method or the engineering design process (89%); and were generally more interested in science because of the science project experience (81%).
This feedback about the value of doing science projects aligns with Science Buddies dedication to the hands-on process and the importance of active learning, an approach to science education that gains added support with Next-Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
Science Buddies: Part of the Solution
Teacher responses to the survey questions were resoundingly positive about the impact Science Buddies is making in the science education process and in the hands-on science learning experience for K-12 students. Among teachers who require science projects for a science fair, more than 75% of respondents suggest Science Buddies to their students as a place to search for a quality science project idea. When asked about the overall quality of Science Buddies' resources, more than 83% of respondents ranked Science Buddies as "excellent" or "very good."
For teachers who use Science Buddies with their students and in their classrooms, Science Buddies is clearly more than making the grade, but there is always room for improvement. Using the information teachers provided about their schools and the features they would like to see at Science Buddies in the future, Science Buddies is already working on new additions and programs that will bring added value to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.