Science Day Musings

The winners of the RCA Science Day.
I had a great time at our annual Science Day at Rhea County Academy last Friday. For the third year in a row, I helped judge all the science fair projects, and I was impressed this time with how much the projects have improved. Every student attempted some kind of experimental project, and the experimental design was much better this year.

This improvement was most noticeable in the ninth grade. I listened carefully as one student explained how her sample size wasn't quite big enough to calculate statistical significance, and I got into a great conversation with another student about his experimental design. These students were thinking very carefully about replicates, sources of error, bias, controls, and everything else that makes a good experiment. I'm accustomed to asking these sorts of questions to get students thinking, but these students were way ahead of me.  It was remarkable.

So how did they learn this?  Well, they have a good teacher, for one.  (I should know - I'm married to her!)  The ninth grade has also been using my Introduction to Science textbook which talks about all of these issues in great detail.  I was really excited to see how much of an impact that study is having.  The course is challenging them to understand how science works not just what science says.

Now if I can just find a good publisher...

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