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Science Fairs in the Pandemic

                           
Whether public schools, private schools, pandemic learning pods or parents helping home schoolers, we have an excellent opportunity to promote independent project-based learning. When students move from being consumers of knowledge to creators of knowledge, then we are greatly increasing their opportunity for a successful transition to becoming independent contributing adults.

Don’t despair, you can still do a science fair. In this blog post, I am going to justify why I think that science fairs are an essential part of independent project-based learning. I am also going to share what I know about the design of science fairs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Why participate in a Science Fair

One unifying learning strategy is to develop communication skills and to have students display work for their school community and to larger audiences. Participation in a science fair achieves these learning outcomes and more by:
 
• allowing students to showcase their areas of strength and to develop their skills and knowledge in other areas that perhaps need strengthening.
• developing not only scientific and mathematical literacy, but also promotes language arts skills, organization, oral and written communication and technical writing skills.
• providing students with an opportunity to be evaluated and receive feedback from independent non-school based professionals.
• advancing the use of creative ways to solve problems and to approach problems from many different perspectives.
• affording a means of being involved in exciting projects.
• allowing students to be fully in charge of designing, assessing and trouble-shooting their own project.
• engaging students with ‘real’ problems to come up with ‘real’ solutions.
• challenging students at the high school level on higher-level functions based on Bloom’s taxonomy.
• requiring students to participate in an interdisciplinary approach which may lead to work with mentors.
• affording the opportunity to enhance student resumes with regard to competitive scholarship and post secondary school applications.
 
Science Fairs during the Pandemic

In Alberta, schools were shut down on March 15. Soon after (March 18), the Canada-Wide Science Fair 2020 scheduled to be held in Edmonton was cancelled. Science Fair Season 2020 appeared to be over. We can imagine the disappointment of so many students nation-wide who had projects prepared for their now cancelled regional fairs and the opportunity to compete for finalist positions in the Canada-Wide Fair. After a month of scrambling behind the scenes, a virtual online STEM fair was introduced by Youth Science Canada allowing an opportunity for the science fair projects to be displayed. The Southern Alberta Technology Council (SATC), organizers of the Lethbridge Regional Science Fair and Science Olympics also offered a virtual 2020 regional science fair event. These proof of concept trials have paved the way for Youth Science Canada to feature a virtual Canada-Wide Science Fair for 2021. Additionally, the format and platform will allow regional science fairs to proceed with organizing and holding their own fairs.

I expect to learn more about Science Fair Season 2021 later this year or early next. If you have comments, questions or suggestions, let me know email gward [at] genomealberta.ca or gwardis on twitter.

Links of Interest:
  CWSF embraces virtual format
  Science Fair Season goes Online  

Science Fairs in the Pandemic

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