Fair successful because of students' efforts

Jared Swenson (seated), biology instructor at Blytheville High School, talks with Arkansas Northeastern College life sciences professor Lance Morris about Swenson’s students who particpated in the school’s College Readiness Science Fair near the end of the first semester. Students from all 22 science classes participated, displaying their topics Dec. 15. Instructor Virginia Andrews said the fair was very successful because the students’ topics were so in-depth, as teachers required so much evidence from them.


Blytheville Schools PR Dir.

Students from all 22 Blytheville High School science classes participated in the College Readiness Science Fair, with the projects displayed in the library Dec. 15. “It was an event to showcase their abilities,” said Virginia Andrews, science instructor at BHS who led the efforts in the school transitioning to the new fair. She said that since BHS is now a New Tech school and large assessments are referred to as College Readiness assessments, the College Readiness science fair was a more appropriate term.

“The biggest difference in the science fair we had in February and this one was that the students were not judged according to their work. The purpose of the fair was to showcase student work rather than go through an evaluative process. We didn't want the night to be a competition, but more of a celebration.”

Andrews added that each student chose his or her own research or engineering design, with certain requirements set by the teacher. “An example of this was in the physics class,” she added. “Students designed a protective device for an egg to survive a fall. In previous years this project didn't require any write-up or evaluation; students just constructed their design and then went on to the next topic. This year students were required to think more deeply about the problem they were assigned and engage in argumentative writing, which until now hadn't been a strong emphasis.”

Students chose their own research question/design under a "class theme”, Andrews revealed. “For my students who researched water quality, each chose a region in the world to research about his or her water. For the physical science class that researched chemical compounds, each student chose his or her own compound. There was an element of choice for each student, but within a given topic chosen by the teacher. This was so that teachers could better assist students in the research process because all the students were working on similar ideas - like a research paper in an English class.

The science teachers also decided that with the fair scheduled for a Thursday evening, chances were better that parents and other family members were more likely to attend than in the afternoon, when work responsibilities might interfere. Science professors from Arkansas Northeastern College and all of the Blytheville Middle School science teachers received invitations to the fair. “That was another reason we wanted to hold it at night, so that teachers from the district could come outside of school hours,” Andrews said.

Andrews went on to say that the quality of the students’ efforts was significantly stronger for the College Readiness science fair because each person was able to go into much more depth with his or her topic. The writings by the students for their fair exhibits was much more involved, and the teachers required more more evidence from those students.

Andrews also said that she was approached by a couple of students about possibly entering the Northeast Arkansas Science Fair in March at Jonesboro. She suggested that the student speak with his/her science teacher about obtaining the necessary paperwork, complete an independent research project and display findings on a tri-fold poster board.

“The primary positive for the teachers was that going in-depth with the students was much easier to do, and the students also know more about the particular topic they focused on,” added Andrews.