The fifth grade science exhibition engages middle schoolers in a quest to test their understanding of the scientific method and provide sound evidence for their findings. Middle school science teacher Katie Behrmann challenges students to verify their research and carefully cite their sources.
“As scientists, we need to prove how and why we know certain facts, to show where our findings came from, and prove why those findings are reliable,” says Behrmann.
This is the first big science research project these students have undertaken, Behrmann says, and she makes sure students understand that proving their hypotheses correct is not the goal of the assignment—rather, their goal is to learn how to follow the right procedures in testing their hypotheses, recording observations, and obtaining useful results.
“One of my students actually said that she was excited her hypothesis wasn’t accurate. She said, ‘Now I get to ask all of these new questions about my project!’”
Topics fifth graders have covered include, “What Type of Water is the Most Nutritious for Plants?” “How Does Drag Affect the Flight of a Paper Airplane?” “How Does Camouflage Affect an Animal’s Chance of Survival?” and “What Mixture of Borax and Glue Produces the Bounciest Silly Putty?”
“In fifth grade, we’re not trying to solve fusion,” Behrmann says. “We’re trying to understand how to explore a question that may not have an answer yet.”
Most of the work in preparation for the science fair takes place during science class, with Behrmann and other faculty members providing guidance and support. At the conclusion of their work, students present their findings to faculty judges, and the following day, they have a chance to show off their work to parents and friends.
“The students really enjoy the process and are excited to share their work,” Behrmann said. “It gives them confidence in anticipation of next year’s exhibition, when they will take on more sophisticated and complex topics and procedures with Mr. Schwartz in upper school science.”