Wednesday, March 19, 2014

My Love Affair of Science Fair

People are usually confused about what I do.  For 3 years I taught a science fair class at AMES and despite what you are thinking, not once did we make a volcano with baking soda and vinegar.  It's a shame, I know. Many of the kids' projects were WAY OVER MY HEAD!  I just helped give them the resources they needed to take their project to the next level.  Just to give you an idea about how amazing these kids were, here are some of the projects they developed:
  • The Suitability of Algae Protein Residue as an Effective Biofuel
  • A Bioassay on Natural Pesticide Filtration
  • The Suitability of Elaeagnus Angusifolia as a Bioindicator of Sulfur Dioxide in the Ambient Atmosphere
  • A Low cost approach to parallax based three-dimensional mapping
  • Detection and Analysis of Point Mutations of the Oxidative Variety in the K-ras gene 
I still don't really know what that last one was about, but hey, the judges did and he made it all the way to the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the largest science fair in the world.  I had the opportunity to attend ISEF as a teacher observer when another one of my students was selected to attend.
I think there are around 2000 projects and they were all amazing!
This was my student's project.  It was titled
"Quantifying Implicit Stereotypes through Cognition of Ambiguous Speech."
He won multiple awards on his research.  Basically, he found that people misunderstood
certain phonemes when they believed a person from a specific race was the source of audio.
I really enjoyed my job, but I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to these sort of things, so I had to quit.  I couldn't be an awesome (supposedly) part-time teacher and an awesome (mostly) stay-at-home mom of 3, so I had to choose one and I chose to be the stay-at-home mom of my three young kids.  

But before I quit, I (along with my co-teacher, who also quit) were asked to run the district-level fair for all the charter schools that lie within the Salt Lake Region, 7 school districts from Park City to Tooele.  So now I have a new project to put energy into.  This has been purely a volunteer thing, but hopefully it can turn into a paying gig.  The google forms we were using for the hundreds of registrations just weren't cutting it, so I made Matt program a website that would do everything from registrations to scoring.  The web program he made might now be used for all the districts in our region.  I like to brag about him, if you can't tell.
Matt also made a logo, because we can't be a legitimate organization
without a logo, right?  Also, Matt is awesome.

 The reason I have volunteered so much of my time doing this is because I have seen kids benefit so much from participating in science fair.  I've seen painfully shy kids develop confidence.  I've seen disorganized kids learn time-management.  I've seen all these kids learn, not only science, but important life skills that will help them be productive adults.  I am an advocate of project-based learning for this reason.  I would love to see schools focus more on teaching students in ways that apply to real-world situations which include projects, cross-curricular assignments, and internships.  I really would love to go back to school and work on a Doctorate on Educational Leadership & Policy and do some research on these types of methods and have some sort of impact on our state's educational system, but who knows.  For now, I'll just run a local science fair and see where it takes me.

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