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Science Super Saturday

Joanne Smith



Type of entry:

  • project

Type of activity:

  • hands on
  • authentic assessment
  • community outreach

Target audience:

  • Biology
  • Integrated science
  • Environmental science


Background information:

The idea for a science conference for elementary students run by their high school counterparts was originally funded by an innovative grant I received from our school district. The start up money provided materials for the sessions the students would attend. We have now run conferences for over 4 years and the community would like to see them continue.

A Science Super Saturday provides an opportunity for high school students to share their science expertise with elementary students in a conference format. Elementary students rotate through sessions of different science disciplines. Each session provides hands-on learning activities for the elementary students in that particular science. The high school students are the group leaders and direct the learning experiences.

High school participants the Science Super Saturday are provided by student volunteers from classes in the science disciplines which are involved. Training for these students can be done after school several days before the conference or, if many students from one class want to be involved, class time can be designated for training. The high school students who participate are awarded extra credit points, a letter for their portfolios indicating community involvement and lunch following the conference. With many science teachers involved, we have had little trouble in recruiting high school students.

Organizing the conference requires contact with local elementary schools a month beforehand to recruit interested elementary students. We have always had more elementary kids than we've been able to accommodate. Students who register are divided into groups the day of the conference and are handed a schedule of rotating classes. We have also included a chemistry magic show at the beginning of the day, a mid-morning snack, and a wrap-up with door prizes at the end of the conference. Each science discipline (we have included biology, earth, physics, chemistry and computers) teacher trains their own students. Several other students are recruited for registration, running errands and serving the snack.


Abstract:

Science Super Saturdays provide an opportunity for high school science students to demonstrate their knowledge in a unique setting. Elementary students (fourth and fifth graders) in the community come to the high school for a science conference. They attend 4-5 sessions lead by the high school students. Each session represents a separate discipline of science - the biology room staffed with Biology II students, allows elementary kids to decide if they'd like to dissect a frog, work with microscopes or build terrariums. Thirty to forty minutes later, the same group of kids heads down the hall for earth science activities: stream tables, fossil making and volcanoes.

Another objective of this program is to excite the younger students about science. All the elementary students leave the conference enthused about science. They return to their home schools and share their day with classmates who didn't attend. We have found the conference has a very positive impact on their attitudes towards science. The high school students as well benefit from their experience - they gain an appreciation for "teaching."


Activity:

A Science Super Saturday is a program that provides an opportunity for high school science students to work with elementary students in a conference format. Elementary students rotate through sessions of different science disciplines and get an exposure of that "science" from activities and knowledge provided by the high school experts. This program has been very successful for both the elementary and high school students. Other schools in our district have also held science conferences for their feeder elementary students modeled after our program.

A Super Saturday can be easily set up with coordination among fellow science teachers, and a lead teacher to organize the overall plan. An organizational plan for such an event would include considering the following items:

1. Meet with fellow science teachers to set a date and obtain the commitment of their students. We had one teacher involved from each discipline: biology, earth science, physics, chemistry and computers. These teachers all taught the upper division classes and it was easy to recruit students. It would be possible to have just a biology conference, however, I would still have several teachers help out. Each teacher recruited about ten students for the day of the conference. These students would then be trained by their recruiting teacher either after school or during class time.

2. Elementary schools should be contacted at least 1 month prior to the event so that participants can be notified of their acceptance. I sent a letter to the principals of each of our feeder elementary schools and asked them to disseminate the registration forms. We have eight feeder elementaries and therefore limited each school to fifteen students. We charged the elementary student $5 to cover any supplies and a light snack. We designated 4th and 5th grade students. Younger students could be included.

3. Each science discipline selects activities which can be shared with the elementary students. Our emphasis was "hands on". Below are the activities we have used in past years.

Biology - microscopes, frog dissection, terrariums, animal behavior, owl pellets, flower dissection

Earth Science - stream table, mineral identification, making fossils, telescopes, topographic maps, weather station

Physics - vandegraf, steam engines, tower of physics, sound waves, lasers, bed of nails, Newton's laws

Chemistry - acid base indicators, titrations, cryogenics, chromatography, freezing point depression via ice cream, slime

Computers - simulations, internet

4. Elementary students arrive on the day of the workshop. They have been separated into groups - usually 20-25 per group - and will rotate through the sessions with this same group. All students will get a chance to attend each discipline, however, within that discipline, they may only do one or two activities depending on the amount of time available.

5. Before we send our elementary students out to the sessions, we have several high school students perform a chemistry magic show to the whole group.Their program includes flash paper, lighting Hydrogen balloons and various chemical tricks.

6. Each discipline session lasts 30 minutes. We take a break after three sessions so everyone can have a snack of cookies and juice. After the final session, we regroup and the elementary students are asked to evaluate their day. We present participation certificates and door prizes.

We have had great success with our Science Super Saturdays. The high school students involved are asked to critique their experience and are overwhelmingly positive about the day. Elementary schools beg us to continue this as an annual event and wish that more of their students could be involved. We have received several grants from the district to help finance the start up materials. I believe the program can be self supporting through charging the elementary students a fee and asking for donations for door prizes and snacks. Our success with this activity has only come about because of the cooperation of teachers within our department. We collectively agree that this is great experience for all involved - and that none of us could do it alone.


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