Today’s post is another question, submitted by a teacher whose school I’ve had the pleasure to work with on a few occasions. I love that she’s reaching out with today’s question, in response to me challenging science teachers to re-think how we do science fair projects.
I am the junior high science teacher at our school. [...] I am wanting to do a big science fair with my 8th graders. Instead of them presenting their projects with the typical tri-fold posters I was hoping there was a cool app or website they could use to present their research from their project. Kind of like a digital/virtual lab report. Do you know of any app or website that could help me?
Science fair exhibit (butterflies), probably the exhibit of a first or second grader, local science fair in New York State (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When I visited your school, some of what I had mentioned is that in addition to the tri-folds, I had my students make websites in order to go deeper with their presentations. With the boards, we had the typical “stuff” visitors could see, but we also included the website which held many more pictures, deeper explanations, videos of the student at work (which helps to dis-invite parents from doing all the work).
However, you could absolutely ditch the tri-folds altogether! Those boards just take up valuable time, space, and money that we don’t HAVE to spend when we introduce the virtual components. One side-note: if you are doing a big, one-room, parents-touring type of science fair, you might prefer to have a tri-fold for each kid AND a website, which is what we did because my kids were building to take their work to a regional and state-level science fair to compete with kids from schools that had little to no technology. My students still displayed their websites with their laptops, but they were required by rules to have the tri-fold.
If you go to the website-only format, then you can have a fully virtual science fair…which I’d LOVE to do! I know we might be tempted to have a one-room, parent-nite presentation where one kid at a time gets up and presents his/her results *yawn* or we could do something else! We could highlight one kid’s project a day for a month! Yep! Have the science fair MONTH, not just evening!
To do a virtual science fair, we want to have the kids create an introductory video (less than 5 minutes–more like 2 minutes long–cut the boring stuff and get to the heart of the learning). In this video, they could briefly summarize their question, their methodology, their findings, their next-level questions, whatever you like. And then they would also include a link to their website where we, the audience, could go in deeper to see pics, videos of the kids in action, the collected data evidence, etc. This “presentation” could be housed on the school or district website, the classroom website, or anywhere, really!
Then, once each kid’s project is revealed, you might have a Padlet
embedded on the school/class website to house those projects (include the kid’s name, if you like, but definitely a link to his/her site.) that have been presented already that month. This way, the community could go in and see all the kids’ works over time.
If the school has a video announcement system (for instance a TV or monitor of some type in every room for morning announcements) then the video could get shown then! How fun?! And it could be potentially embarrassing, so the kids would have to be sure to have done their best work!So what would we use for the website? I had my kids choose what platform they wanted to use. My younger students (grades 5-6) used wikis such as Wikispaces
or Google Sites
, while my older, more experienced students usually chose to use Wix
, all of which are free tools. In fact, there are many free tools students could use. I think I even had one kid use HTML to code up his own site, but I’m not sure that was for this project. If you’re having kids use iPads, maybe they could try Simpl
, which are iPad apps that help people build websites, right from their iPads.
On their sites, it was expected that the students had included a page for each section of the scientific process, as well as an introduction landing page.If you were able to ditch the tri-fold boards completely, you’d have the potential for a 100% virtual science fair and it could potentially goes on for a month (or more) and every single kid, elem-high school, and their parents and grandparents could view the cool stuff your kids have been doing! I see that as a win in any school.
And the truth is, we teachers know exactly how many of those tri-fold boards are actually built by parents, don’t we?