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Create a science fair at your school that draws attention!

Written by Ben Newsome on February 17th, 2016.      0 comments

School science fair

Science fairs are so much fun to put together and they really bring your school hall to life when done properly. Who wouldn't want to come visit your school when the students have created robots, DNA extractions, weather simulations, colourful chemical concoctions and more... it's certainly much more interesting than bare polished floor space! What better time to do this than during National Science Week?

Science fairs naturally bring science to the community, but they also create a focal event for your school and can help highlight all things that is great about education. There are so many things you could do:
  • Showcase your student's skills in a Maker Lab! The maker lab movement is huge at the moment, especially with the push in 2014 by the White house to get more students into STEM courses. Students love to deconstruct things and re-use these objects in creative ways. With a little supervision you have students producing all manner of strange and wonderful objects; plus these things they create can be aligned with your core teachings for science inquiry learning. Why not have them build a Rube Goldberg machine? They could make cartesian divers or a pop pop boat... the choices are endless!

    Robot scribbler
    Scribbler robot shown at St Patricks Catholic Primary School, Kogarah.

    Of course, you could have students setup tables around the hall on all types of science and have the community visit during the school day or in a special evening session. BBQ time perhaps!

    Volcano model   Flowers in food colouring
    More science experiments from St Patrick Catholic Primary School's Science Fun Day.
  • Have scientists visit your school. You'd be surprised what you can get if you just ask. No doubt that there would be engineers, surveyors, scientists, doctors, National Park Rangers, council environment officers and more from your attending families who might be able to give up a little bit of their time to speak with your students. You could also get in touch with Australian Tall Poppies who work with a couple of hundred scientists from across Australia who have great communication skills and want to work with the community. Nearly every time we run a school science visit during National Science Week teachers have asked if we can spend time to discuss what it's like to enroll in a science course and it's subsequent benefits. 
  • Hit the streets! Gresford Public School did a fantastic job a few years ago with engaging local council and business owners in the street to put their science fair into the community! It was one of those win / win/ win / win situations... the school got to showcase their student's work, the science fair drove the local tourism upwards for council, the cafes & shops got extra income generated through increased foot traffic and subsequent goodwill for helping host the event and it exposed the greater community to science through the day's events and via media articles. Gresford Public School worked in partnership with Dungog High School and invited local scientists headed by local favourite Dr Leslie Wright to help present on the street. The atmosphere in Dungog was tremendous.  Plus, they got it funded by the Federal Government! Is this something you could make happen in your town or suburb? On this occasion we were invited to run a Big Science Big Fun presentation for the whole school which we thoroughly enjoyed. Why not give it a go?

    Article from the Dungog Chronicle highlight the street science fair organised by Gresford Public School
  • Let your hair down! Ok, yeah in some ways this is not politically correct but students really enjoy dressing up as mad scientists. Yes, I know that it perpetuates a long standing concern that this image is unrealistic but at the same time... it's meant to be a fun day! With enrolments in HSC and University science courses dropping it is our duty as science educators to excite and inspire students in whatever way possible. Why not get kids dressed up as scientists if that means there is an energy and a buzz in your school... maybe they might engage more with your lessons if they can see that you can relate to them and not always be so serious.  Why not survey the students about what they think scientists actually do? You can use this image to your advantage too; talk with your students about whether the crazy scientist caricature really exists and how this image has become entrenched in modern culture. You might be surprised how quickly you can turn around their perceptions by getting a little silly.

    Al Faisal College National Science Week 2016
    Science teachers at Al Faisal college setting the mood!

    In fact, this reminds me of a great quote...

    A scientist worthy of a lab coat should be able to make original discoveries while wearing a clown suit, or give a lecture in a high squeaky voice from inhaling helium. It is written nowhere in the math of probability theory that one may have no fun. Eliezer Yudkowsky

    ‘A scientist worthy of a lab coat should be able to make original discoveries while wearing a clown suit, or give a lecture in a high squeaky voice from inhaling helium. It is written nowhere in the math of probability theory that one may have no fun.’ Eliezer Yudkowsky
As you can see, there is a lot you can do to make National Science Week at your school vibrant and engaging. Why not talk to your student representative council to get them to steer the project themselves? With your guidance they will learn project management and community engagement skills whilst learning science to boot. You could even build this in as part of your ongoing assessment too. What's not to like? Give it a go and your school engagement will certainly benefit as a result.

All the best!


Ben Newsome
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