Science Fair Projects: Are They Important for Science Education?

The United States need more science students. And we need new thinking and new programs on how to motivate young students to become scientists. We need more good science fair project programs. Many minority students, who have great potential are not entering the science arena. In order to get a good scientific career in health care, or the biological sciences, you have to pass freshman chemistry at the university level. This is a very difficult course and many wannabe scientists get discouraged and drop out even before they get started. About 65% of the American scientists are white males. During the next forty years, white males will compose about 20% of the population. The problem is that we must produce more qualified nonwhite scientists or we will lose our competitive position in the world.

One of the main reasons that America has been able to progress in the scientific community of the world is that super students from countries like India and China come to the U. S. to study science and have remained here as part of our scientific work force. Many universities report that from one quarter to three quarters of their Ph.D. candidates are overseas students. This pattern has been prevalent for many years and has benefited the U.S. considerably. However this pattern is changing rapidly. Science fair projects alone cannot carry the burden although they do help so much in getting young students interested in the sciences.

Countries all over the world are catching up and sometimes surpassing the U.S. with increased investments in science education. Accordingly the brain drain of the past has changed direction and in many cases we are losing our best students to foreign countries. Science fair projects help to begin a thought process by using the scientific method. The student begins a long journey on learning a new discipline which obviates the importance of attitude, prejudice, cultural biases, and replaces them with a protocol of scientific investigation, experimentation and testing.

The temptations to return to their native lands after being educated in the U.S are many and varied. Foreign students are being lured with large grants for research, new facilities, native cultures and returning to family and familiar surroundings. So often young graduates begin to yearn to return to their roots, to their families and friends and familiar surroundings. And many wish to make a contribution to their native country and help other youngsters to have the opportunities that they have.

The black students were not doing as well as the Asian students and this prompted some research which revealed that the Asian students studied in groups and learned from each other. They motivated each other and set up competitive environments, one pushing the other to new heights. The black students on the other hand studied alone and were more readily distracted from the task at hand, from studying and from achieving. No amount of science fair projects could help this situation.

New programs of learning together and a more communal life style was introduced to African American students and the results were dramatic. Grades went way up, graduation statistics zoomed. Increased dependence on teachers, other mentors, peer groups and team support were introduced and used successfully. Training sessions, after school work, problem solving groups and a host of this type of communications systems were put in place with dramatic results. The students no longer felt alone. Problems seemed smaller when students learned that others were facing the same dilemma. Answers came more easily and more rapidly. Group encouragement and competition and pushing each other became the order of day. Mentors were available for the more difficult problems. Even science fair projects were not enough to win the day. But science fair projects helped a lot of these students to get started.

As soon as the students arrive at the beginning of school year, they get together with a graduate school mentor who will be available to them to discuss studies as well as any personal problems they may have. They are assisted in getting jobs part time like working in research laboratories and similar jobs related to their areas of interest. They get jobs in off season summer programs and become part of an academic support community. The students who heretofore were losers become winners. There never was anything wrong with their ability to do good work, all they needed was encouragement, support, and assistance to get them over the hard times. To think that it all began with a science fair project. Regardless what area of science you like best, whether it be physics, biology or chemistry, or computer sciences, or botany or astronomy, you will find over 400 science fair projects accessible immediately online at http://www.terimore.com.

Elementary and Middle School Science – Hand Held Weather Station is Changing Science Education

Back in the old days, a typical school science weather forecaster consisted of a three dial unit that told temperature, humidity and barometric pressure. Things have changed. Today, elementary science datalogger technology, also referred to as probeware with sensors, designed specifically for science education can still tell those three things, but a whole lot more.

These systems are easy enough to be operated and understood by an elementary school student and yet powerful enough to be used in advanced science applications. The new educational technology includes a portable datalogger that acts like a mini weather station. Designed especially for younger students, this handheld device contains five built-in sensors and an LCD display. It’s ideal for displaying and recording daily weather patterns and supplies real time data on sound, light, temperature, humidity and barometric pressure.

This type of hand held device can also include ports for plugging in a wide range of additional sensors. This type of unit can be used for observing and collecting data on things such as motion, heart rate, pH levels, voltage and many others. This is in addition, of course, to the five sensors already built in to the unit.

You simply plug the sensor in and start collecting data. Many of the new sensor technologies auto-identify the sensors and are auto-calibrated to save time and frustration in getting the unit up and running. It’s easy to use and the kids in the class love it because they are more engaged with this ‘hands-on’ approach to learning.

The newest technology runs on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, similar to those found in most cell phones. They can be recharged by either using the AC adapter or by plugging it into a computer’s USB port with the USB cable. The advanced battery technology allows the new, innovative technology to collect data for over thirty days on a single charge.

Data logging software is an integral part of the technology package. It is critical for displaying real-time data for students and many new software packages are very easy to use. You can download data that’s been collected away from the computer, analyze it and even copy the chart or graph into other applications such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint or Excel. You can even export the data from the software into Excel with the touch of a button in some applications.

There’s quite a bit of technology packed into these compact, pocket-sized, easy-to-use mini weather stations. Whether directly hooked up to a computer or on its own outside the classroom, these mini data loggers do an incredible job of supplying information to the user. And it makes learning fun for the class, as it’s a hands-on unit that delivers immediate feedback on the changing conditions it’s monitoring.

10 Interactive Science Education Websites For Grades K-12

As science teachers prepare to go back to school for the next school year, some have already returned, they are always searching for good online resources to supplement their lessons. It is always nice when someone helps them by previewing science websites and make recommendations.

The best science education websites are interactive, allowing students to make changes to or manipulate variables to observe what happens and share with others. This falls within the boundaries of inquiry-based teaching and learning. Students are developing their own experiments, observing the results, and reporting their findings.

The following websites have been previewed and meet the criteria of interactive and inquiry-based:

FOSS Web – is designed to support Full Option Science System (FOSS) Science K-8 science kits, but anyone can use the interactive activities for grades K – 8.

Volcano Cams – provides real-time views of volcanoes around the world. Students can observe volcanoes and develop their own experiments using these virtual cams for grades 5 – 12.

Explore eLearning – provides simulators for all science concept areas for grades 3 – 12.

Real-time Stream Flow Data across the Nation – by the US Geological Survey (USGS) provides real-time data typically are recorded at 15- to 60-minte intervals and transmitted to the U.S. Geological Survey offices every four hours. Data can be selected by state and county for grades 8 – 12.

Real-time Water Quality Data across the Nation-by the US Geological Survey (USGS) provides real-time water quality data are returned directly field instruments. Data are updated at five minute to one-hour intervals. Data can be selected by state and county for grades 8 -12.

Design a Roller Coaster – allows students to design their own roller coaster. They are building a conceptual coaster using the same physics concepts that are used to design real coasters for grades 6 – 12.

Human Anatomy Online – allows students to explore the Human Anatomy. Each topic has animations, 100’s of graphics, and thousands of descriptive links, for grades 4 – 12.

Earth and Atmospheric Kids Crossing – allows students explore water, atmosphere, and weather for grades 3 – 8.

Recycle City – lets students explore plenty of ways to see how a city’s residents recycle, reduce, and reuse waste for grades 3 – 8.

MBG Net – allows students to explore Biomes, Freshwater Systems, and Marine Systems of the World for grades 6 – 12.