Teacher Tools In-class Science Project
In-class Science ProjectSubmitted by Cheryl Weaver, former board member of the Livermore Valley Charter School in Livermore, California, and by Bill Storm and Sarita Cooper, science specialists at Valley Oak Elementary School in Davis, California.
Employ scientific inquiry in your classroom by guiding students through a hands-on trial run of a single classroom science project before they tackle their own.
Most appropriate in elementary school when students are just beginning to learn scientific inquiry.
For the In-class Science Project, the teacher guides the students through an experiment that takes place during class time and requires each of the steps of the scientific method. The teacher uses all of the appropriate terminology involved in doing a science project and requires students to communicate their results in a project format. The in-class experiment can serve as a practice run before students create their own science projects, or it can be a joint project that the class enters in a science fair.
While the In-class Science Project is ideal for students about to experience their first science fair, this tool also serves as a great refresher for any student who has participated in the past. Students will have a complete trial experience fresh in their minds before they kick off their own projects.
Choose an appropriate experiment. Visit the Project Ideas portion of the Science Buddies website for suggestions, or consider the inquiry activities that are already part of your curriculum. Turning a basic inquiry activity into a class project is simply a matter of expanding what you are already doing and positioning it as a project by using the easy strategies below.
Take the activity beyond the usual science experiment by following the same science fair project steps they will be performing later.
Ways to Turn an Activity into an In-class Science Project
|Have students brainstorm a question that the project will ask. Give them the general topic, but get them to try to figure out a relevant question answerable through inquiry. As the teacher, have an idea of the ultimate outcome that you want and guide the students there.||Obtain experience with thinking independently.|
|Use all formal terminology, such as hypothesis and experimental procedure.||Become familiar with terms that otherwise would be stumbling blocks later.|
|Challenge students to write their own materials lists by answering questions such as, "Where can we go to get them?" and "How do we measure these materials?"||Consider the practicality of the materials and the importance of precise measurements.|
|As a group, list the steps for the experimental procedure. As a class, consider whether someone new to the topic could do the experiment just by following the steps.||Learn about the importance of comprehensiveness and clarity.|
|Divide students into smaller groups and assign each group one experimental trial.||Get a chance to perform experiment steps.|
|Direct each group to record their data in a data table and observations in their lab notebooks.||Learn to keep careful track of data and observations.|
|Compile all steps on a display board, in a final report format, or both.||Discover that pulling together a display board is easy after documenting steps along the way. Gain written examples that they can refer to when doing their own science fair projects.|
When the project is complete, you could enter it as a class project at the fair, if rules allow. At Livermore Valley Charter School, the 2nd-grade class entered their project as a group, and were at the fair to answer questions from visitors. More commonly, an In-class Science Project is a practice experience for students who will enter individual or small group projects into the fair.
Use the following resources for this Science Project Enrichment Tool:
- Project Ideas: Project Ideas on the Science Buddies website
- Full Option Science System (FOSS) kits: Used by many school districts, these kits include a teacher's guide, required materials, and an overview video.
Teachers who have tried this idea realized key benefits when doing their own science projects:
- Student confidence: Students had an easy time getting started on each project step since they could recall what they did in class.
- Participation: In a non-mandatory fair at Livermore Valley Charter School, the 4th-grade students who did a class project participated at a 50% greater rate in the fair than students in grades that did not have that experience. One hundred percent of 2nd graders got to participate, since those students entered their class project as a group.