Our Science Fair is getting a little “makeover” this year, and I wanted to take a few moments of your time to share what’s happening that’s different, what’s the same, and why the new direction. Here we go!
The best place to start is to share that we’re “re-branding” our Science Fair in name and essence to something like… “Problem Solved Fair,” or “Problem Solved Expo,” or “The Exploration of Problems and How Students Solved Them… Fair.” Please share ideas for names!
The idea behind this change in name (and the changes I’ll explain in a bit) is that although a typical Science Fair involves students solving problems, this new perspective opens the door to more options for our students while still keeping the mindset and benefits behind a Science Fair, like the scientific method, researching, exploring questions, and finding answers. In general, we are always encouraging our students to solve problems, and with this event, our focus is solving problems through science and engineering.
So, what is this going to look like for our students going forward?
Lower Elementary students will not experience any change in what they’ve been doing. Their focus on Inquiry-Based projects (the typical picture of a Science Fair project), is an important building block. It solidifies their understanding of the scientific method and sets the foundation really well for what’s to come in the future.
Upper Elementary is where the alterations begin. In their two-year cycle, Upper El students will focus on Rube Goldberg Machines one year and Engineering-Based Projects the next year.
Engineering Projects have always been an option in a Science Fair, but they aren’t as readily chosen as the Inquiry-Based projects. The process is closely related to the Scientific Method (research, experimentation, reflections), but it’s different, and we want to make sure students get this exposure and understanding. Some Engineering problems students could focus on might be learning how to fix something, reverse engineering, innovation, invention, and so much more.
Rube Goldberg Machines (RGMs) are a different type of engineering project, and they’re a lot of fun. This is where Upper El is focusing its attention this year. You can think of these as over-solving a problem. If you don’t know what RGMs are, check this out. They are connected to that engineering mindset, problem solving left and right, testing and tweaking. Students will also develop an understanding of and foundation in simple machines, and learn more about how energy is transformed from one type to another throughout their machine.
Enter Middle School. Students now have a strong base in the Scientific Method, the Engineering Design Process, and the building of and energy transfers in Rube Goldberg Machines. At this stage, we open the door for students to take their pick. They’ve built the foundation for the various ways to solve science and engineering problems, and now it’s up to them to decide which direction they’d like to explore. Where do their interests lead them?
Finally, culminating in 8th grade, our senior students will return to submitting their projects to the UNC State Science Fair (as they’ve done in the past) or submit to the official Rube Goldberg Competition. This stopped during COVID, and we are excited to bring this aspect back to DGS. It’s a special thing when students get to share their hard work with our community, but it’s another experience altogether to share their work beyond the walls of DGS. Our students are amazing and we want them to have this opportunity to show off after they just gave it their all.
And that’s our new approach, which has been an absolute team effort to design. Build a strong base for our students so that when they are given the choice in Middle School, they feel confident to go in any direction. It’s been inspiring to see the progression of UE’s Rube Goldberg Machines, and hearing all the choices the Middle Schoolers are making based on their interests. Lower El has begun their projects as well. It’s going to be a fun fair on March 1st, and I can’t wait for you all to walk through the school to see their projects from Lower El all the way up!
See you there!