Sherwood Education Foundation

SEF Helps Laurel and Edy Ridge Schools Offer Science Fair

(originally published in the July 2012 Sherwood Gazette)

This past April, students at Laurel Ridge Middle School (LRMS) and Edy Ridge Elementary School were able to strut their science stuff in a school-wide science fair, thanks to a grant from the Sherwood Education Foundation. In 2011, LRMS sixth grade science teacher Heather Clark applied for and received an SEF grant to make the fair possible.


“Science fairs are a great way to teach inquiry-based science,” Clark says. “Most science education is structured or guided, where teachers give students problems to investigate, as well as the procedures and materials. But open inquiry, where students determine the problem, investigation, and procedure, is the most authentic, because students follow their own paths of questioning.”


Scientific inquiry is a cornerstone of science education, comprising 20 percent of the Oregon Science Content Standards. Yet, it is very difficult to give students personal scientific investigation experiences. There is no monetary support for students to present personal scientific investigations; the cost of the display boards alone for 630 students is thousands of dollars.


SEF was able to help Clark with a grant to cover the cost of the display boards, Sharpies, glue sticks, and other materials for a science fair at both LRMS and Edy Ridge. It was run by fifth through eighth grade science teachers at the two schools during April 2012.


“If we hadn’t received a grant from SEF there simply wouldn’t have been a fair,” Clark says. “There is no classroom funding for this type of thing.”


The kids loved the fair. Teachers spent time in class discussing the steps involved in scientific inquiry and helping students think through their projects. But then students were off and running.
Some of the topics the kids chose to explore: Which brand of battery lasts the longest? Which liquid causes nails to rust fastest? Which mouthwash kills the most bacteria in your mouth? Which fruit or vegetable creates the best dye? Do people associate colors with emotions? Is one type of fingerprint more dominant in males or females? Does color effect goldfish behavior? Does basil grow better in artificial light or sunlight?


“The kids really got into their experiments,” Clark says. “They were so eager to show everyone their results. Normally, students are reluctant to talk in front of their peers, but they were all so eager to present their findings. Without a fair, we wouldn’t have been able to give kids a hands-on experience like this.”


To all the future scientists at LRMS and Edy Ridge, don’t forget to thank SEF in your Nobel Prize speech.


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