Science Fair vs. Inquiry Fair

I was lucky enough to be TOCing in a school during their intermediate wide Science Fair. Amazing to see their bright and happy faces all proud of the experiments they conducted and the neatly displayed boards they created with their partners. While I was excited for each and everyone of these students, I couldn’t seem to get over the answers to the first question I would ask each pair: What made you think of doing this experiment?

“It was in the Science Fair package and seemed cool”
“My dad told me to do it because we had all the supplies”

The choice didn’t come from this intrinsic desire to experiment on something and see which is the BEST or how something works. It really just became a project they had to complete and had to make it fit a set of guidelines for the fair.

Then I began imagining what an inquiry fair would be like. It ¬†definitely wouldn’t have a mandatory poster shaped a particular way and there wouldn’t be a ‘guide’ on projects students could do. It would target the questions going on in those students bustling brains and we’d give them time to really explore them and show what they’ve learned or discovered for themselves.

This would take those who partake in Genuis Hours or Learning in Depth programs and put them on a school wide fair that would undoubtedly be incredibly difficult to ‘judge.’ Perhaps this is the point – when real learning is at work, real passions are being discovered and explored.. the ranking of winners seems inappropriate and, all cheesiness aside, everyone’s a winner.


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