janet41
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What distinguishes upper level projects?

Postby janet41 » Wed Mar 31, 2010 9:18 pm

We survived this year's science fair, and amazingly both kids want to do it again next year! I have a general question for getting ready -- My 6th grader will be moving up from the junior division judging session (K-6) to the senior division (7th grade and up) next year. The 7th and 8th graders are not ranked against the high schoolers, but they are expected to be higher level projects than the K-6 level.

What new skills should we work on? What new expectations should we be prepared for? Any particular things we should work on over the summer to get ready?

Thanks for any hints!

MelissaB
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Re: What distinguishes upper level projects?

Postby MelissaB » Thu Apr 01, 2010 12:22 am

Hi,

I have not been involved with many fairs, so hopefully one of the other experts will chime in here. First, Science Buddies has a great chart about what is expected in middle school and high school that you might find useful: http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-f ... ards.shtml .

Generally, what I would look for as a judge is qualitatively different, not quantitatively different. I would expect the students' background research to be a bit better, and I might expect there to be more trials. I would also expect the graphs, charts, and overall presentation to be a bit better.

Anyway, that's my two cents--hopefully someone else will chime in :).

mpphlipot
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Re: What distinguishes upper level projects?

Postby mpphlipot » Thu Apr 01, 2010 8:18 am

I agree with Melissa's comment about it being quality over quantity. And, in particular, a more strict adherance to the scientific method. This means a more disciplined approach about having a control group and ensuring all conditions are kept constant except for the variables under test.

In the case of truly outstanding projects, judges may have some skepticism that a middle schooler really did the work. So anything that addresses that doubt is always helpful. Having the students log book, as messy as it may be, adds a lot of credibility that the student carried out the experiments. Another thing that helps here is photographs of the student working on the project. And, finally, most important is that the student has sufficient understanding that they can confidently answer the judges questions and not simply rely on a well-rehearsed speech.

Amber_MIT
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Re: What distinguishes upper level projects?

Postby Amber_MIT » Thu Apr 01, 2010 8:43 am

I agree with what has been said by Melissa and mpphilpot. Understanding the science behind why the project turned out the way it did, and being able to explain that to judges, is very important.

Here are a few pages that might be helpful:

Project Tips (this explains what "understanding the science behind the project" means, with examples):
http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-f ... tips.shtml

When Competition Doesn't Turn Out the Way You Want (an overview of a student that improved her projects from year to year, this would show your kids what could happen if they work hard!)
http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-f ... tion.shtml

Advanced Project Judging Tips (these are more for advanced high school students, but some of the tips might be helpful for your children)
http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-f ... tips.shtml

Good luck and when next year's fair comes around I hope you come back to the Science Buddies website and the Ask an Expert board!
Stuck? Check out our project guides!
Project Guide: http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_guide_index.shtml
Advanced Project Guide: http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/competitions_index.shtml

Amber Hess
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Amber_MIT
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Re: What distinguishes upper level projects?

Postby Amber_MIT » Thu Apr 01, 2010 9:01 am

I just realized I didn't answer your other question.

As for skills to work on, I suggest getting your children used to being confused, and then work towards understanding. So many students (including me when I was younger) often just give up if something is confusing. They are so used to having things make sense immediately (or if they don't the teacher is right there to explain). To do a great science fair project, there are many things that involve a lot of hard work to understand. Reading research papers, doing background research on new science concepts, troubleshooting the experiment, analyzing results (and connecting the results to the background research)...all of these things probably won't make sense immediately. Letting your children realize that it is perfectly NORMAL to not understand things right away is important. They might have to read a sentence (page, paragraph, etc.) more than 10 times in order for it to start making sense. They will probably have to look up words/concepts they don't understand while reading background research, and then look up words in the definitions of those concepts. Good science doesn't just immediately happen. It takes a lot of sweat to get it all working and to truly understand the science behind the project. I don't know exactly how you could get them to practice this skill.

Perhaps doing fun science projects over the summer and asking them to think critically about the science/results? Or perhaps reading an article about something they enjoy, but that is at a more advanced level than what they are used to reading? Then walking them through the article bit by bit, showing them how to look up concepts online (getting keywords and plugging them into Google), then practice determining which pages are relevant and why (and not abandoning a page just because it looks a bit confusing). They wouldn't have to write a paper about it, just have a discussion. You wouldn't believe how many students we get on these boards that "can't find anything about [insert topic here]" and yet all it takes for us is a one second Google search using some of the words they used to describe their own project, and up pops tons of relevant pages :-). It took them more time to register and ask a question on the forum than it would have taken them to do a quick search on Google. We have a list of fun summer ideas here: http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-f ... arents.php
Stuck? Check out our project guides!
Project Guide: http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_guide_index.shtml
Advanced Project Guide: http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/competitions_index.shtml

Amber Hess
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janet41
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Re: What distinguishes upper level projects?

Postby janet41 » Thu Apr 01, 2010 10:12 am

Wow! Thanks for all the great answers. This helps a lot.


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