Teacher Tools After-School Science Project Clinic
After-School Science Project ClinicSubmitted by Bill Storm, a 5th- and 6th-grade science specialist teacher at Valley Oak Elementary in Davis, California.
Level the playing field for students who do not have access to knowledgeable mentors who can assist them in conceptualizing and completing their science projects.
Establish a weekly after-school science project clinic, staffed with volunteers, to support students who lack mentors at home or face socioeconomic disadvantages. Staff the clinic by recruiting volunteers at a local university. Work closely with school staff members to identify students who need support.
First, familiarize yourself with your school and district's safety rules, such as the need for background checks or supervision of recruited volunteers. Then approach a local university to find student volunteers, such as education students seeking internships, as well as independent students seeking community service. At Valley Oak Elementary, approximately 20 volunteers signed up to help science students.
The second step is to find students who need additional support. Poll all staff members to gain insight into which students need academic or language support; require sponsorship for materials, including a display board; and/or lack support at home. Counselors, English-language teachers, classroom staff, resource teachers, psychologists, and speech therapists will all have valuable input.
In addition, inform students that extra support is available. At Valley Oak Elementary, a few additional students, beyond those identified by staff, came forward to participate. Be sure to ask parental permission for the students who want to participate.
In the third step, provide a structure in which the enthusiastic university volunteers and students can work on their projects. For the duration of the science project assignment, have volunteers work with your students one afternoon a week on your school campus.
Use the Science Buddies Teacher's Guide to Science Projects, which includes the Student Science Project Schedule and worksheets for most steps of the scientific method, to guide the volunteers in providing worthwhile assistance. At each clinic, let each volunteer know which project step his or her student is trying to complete, and give suggestions for how the volunteer can help with that step. For example, when students start background research, the volunteers should accompany the students to the library and help them search for appropriate materials. When students reach the step of designing an experimental procedure, they might enjoy "shopping" with volunteers for project materials in the school's science labs. In the final step, communicating results, volunteers should help students organize and proofread their display boards.
Use the following Science Buddies resource for this Science Project Enrichment Tool:
At Valley Oak Elementary, about 30 students received extra support out of a population of 360 students in the upper-elementary grades. The mere presence of special people from the university encouraged students to participate in the after-school clinic.
The main result of the program was that the volunteers helped students meet a key objective: gaining public acknowledgement of personal work. At the fair, students had the chance to show their projects to the volunteers and their families. They saw for themselves that their work mattered to a larger community.
Messmer, B., Smith, S.W., Storm, B., Weaver, C. "Four Tools for Science Fair Success." Science and Children. Vol. 45 No. 4 Dec. 2007.