Archive for September, 2008

Educational Freebies on the Internet

I got this email in my box a few days ago, and wanted to share it with you:

We just posted an article, “101 100+ Ways to Score Freebies For Your Classroom”. I thought I’d bring it to your attention in case you think your readers would find it interesting. (I am happy to let you know that your site has been included in this list!)

Either way, thanks for your time!
Kelly Sonora

Sooo – have fun!

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Easy Steps to Science Fair Projects (Part III)

Yet another part of the same loooong article… feedback welcome!

When things go wrong…
So you’ve taken the steps, come up with questions, formed experiments, and even tested out your ideas, but the results you got make no sense at all. What do you do now?

When I taught at the university, I deliberately gave the students an experiment for which a conclusion did not exist… because the results were never the same twice. I did this for two reasons… first, to teach them never to cheat and lie about their results (they were given an immediate ‘zero’ without warning if they did “fudge” the results), and second… how to handle such a thing when it happens for real.

Over half the class got the “F”.

However, they were allowed to “redo” the experiment for a half-grade, if they chose to. Most of them did. Now, why would I do such a thing?

No matter what happens in your experiment, in any experiment, keep in mind that your results stand, no matter what. The laws of the universe, the laws of physics are still working and active… regardless of how you wanted the experiment to turn out. By fudging your results, you can’t really ever be sure if your conclusion stands, and you may as well throw away the entire experiment. But what do you do when you feel like you’ve tried everything, but it still doesn’t work right?

Your greatest moments of thought happen in instances just like this one… One of the most important parts of being a true scientist is being an observer – being able to step back and ask, “What’s really going on here? Why did the marble fly off the track? Was the marble going too slow or fast? Was the track too steep, or too wobbly?”

The truth is, you haven’t tried everything, because if you did, it would be working right now. But it isn’t, so you haven’t. It helps to write down what you have tried… and if you’re keeping good records of your results, this is where you’ll find the information.

You are a great scientist, no matter what results you produce in any experiment. The world will know how sharp you are, how ingenious your mind is when you are able to step back and observe what’s really going on… while the rest of the world gets wrapped up with thoughts that cripple their creativity. “Why didn’t it work? It’s supposed to! It’s broken… it’ll never work. This is dumb.”

When you get stuck, frustrated (hey, we all do!), or just upset, take a breath, go outside, and remember it’s just one experiment… and you’ll get back to it when you’re ready. Smile, get an ice cream, and remember that there will always more to learn, and no, you’ll never get it all done.

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Easy Steps to Science Fair Projects (Part II)

Wow – thank you to everyone who gave us feedback on the Part I! We received not only emails but phone calls, basically asking for the rest of the article NOW, because they already know they’ll need it soon! You are welcome to leave your comments below so everyone can see them – it’s okay – we’re all friends here and it helps others to see the comments we’ve been hearing from you. We aren’t afraid of feedback, as we know it only helps us get better!!

So… enough of that – let’s get on with another portion of the article. Here are a few more excerpts – and yes, let me know what you really think.

…Part (II)

Here is the basic recipe for science fair projects across the globe:

The Scientific Method
1. Ask a question/Think of an idea
2. Do background research (if possible)
3. Construct hypothesis/Plan your experiment
4. Test with an experiment (This is the fun part, and you can do steps 4 & 5 together)
5. Gather, collect, and record your data and analyze the results
6. Does the hypothesis and results match? If not, go back to step 3.
7. Reach a conclusion

Tips and Tricks for Great Experiments
Repeat good results. If you get the result you’re after, then do the experiment again to make sure you can duplicate what happened. And again. And again.

Remove yourself. After you’ve listened to music during a test, ask your friends to do the same thing. This checks to make sure that this phenomenon is not just linked to you, but can work for everyone. You are introducing several other variables here (other people), so you can cut down on these pesky variables by asking half the class to take a test with music, and the other half without, and then switch next time. This way, you’ve got music and non-music taking the same test twice. As for number of kids to test it out on, scientists usually aim for sample sizes of over 30, but work with what you’ve got.

End with recommendations. This is a personal favorite, not a requirement, but I always like to report on the things I would do if I were to continue experimenting. You can easily make three, four, or even five future experiments that you would consider doing that would further refine your conclusion by drawing on the results you found and the experience you gained.

If you can produce consistent results for not just yourself, but for the whole class, and not only that but plans for future areas of study and relate it back to why this was important enough to study in the first place, now you’ve got an experiment worthy of a blue ribbon.

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