Everyone is a winner in my book.

Today, I judged the state science fair. It is the first time I've ever done this, and having never participated in a science fair myself I wasn't sure what to expect. This was the preliminary judging; none of the kids were present, and all we had to do was divide the projects into 1st, 2nd, and 3rd tier.

There were definitely some top quality science projects; there were definitely some less well executed ones. Still... I had a hard time putting anyone in the 3rd tier; I think it is great that these kids made any effort and wanted to reward them all. However, I guess being able to say "I got 3rd honors" is better then not being able to say anything at all...

After we had finished judging our category I walked around to look at the older kids' projects, and all I can say is.... wow! Oh, and, your parents must be in science, because the average person does not have access to a biosafety cabinet, UVA and UVB illuminators, luminometers, electrophoresis equipment, agar plates, ten different antibiotics, dialysis tubing, or pH meters. Still, it was obvious that these kids did the work themselves, and all in all I was quite impressed. When one of my co-judges asked if it made me despair over the state of science education in our state, I could honestly say that it had the opposite affect on me. These kids had good ideas, they put forth a good effort, and they really had a good grasp of the process.

I only wish we could give them more feedback. Things I would say to them would be:

  • to arrange their posters more logically; the hypothesis comes first and the references come last, and everything in between should NOT be printed in squiggly fonts on pretty pink paper and glued on at angles or in designs.
  • to remember that a hypothesis can only be proven untrue, but can never be proven true. It is the scientific version of 'beyond a reasonable doubt', only more concrete then the legal version.
  • to include their data, or when they do include data to be sure to label the axis!
  • to understand all the variables the their potential impact on outcome.
All of them deserve an explanation as to why their projects scored a certain way; otherwise, how can they learn from the experience?

Next year, I'll volunteer to judge on the day the kids are there. Then, not only will I get to walk around with my "Judge" badge pinned to my puffed-up-with-self-importance chest, but I will also get to give them that feedback and meet them first hand... so that I can congratulate them myself.


Lisa said...

That sounds like so much fun!!!!