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A science fair display showing planets
Elementary schools across AUSD held science fairs and events this past month, which traditionally give students a chance to post hypotheses, run experiments, analyze results, and present their conclusions to peers and families alike. Entries this year ranged from: “What Kind of Food Do Dogs Like” to “How to Electric Guitars Make Sound” and “What Happens When You Put a Pencil Through a Bag of Water?”
We’re highlighting two fairs this year that had a slightly different twist: Edison School’s Science and Engineering Fair, which wasn’t judged in recognition of the fact that some students get more help at home than others” and an event at Earhart that featured a former California School Teacher of the Year and 21 hands-on science activities.
Edison Elementary School held a Science and Engineering Fair - it’s first since the pandemic, which inspired students to work on projects focused on a wide range of topics, including wind mills, electric guitars, and things that orbit the sun (not just planets!).
A science fair display showing planets
Edison’s event was organized by a committee comprised of five parents and 5th grade teacher Glenn Aitken and based on a similar model used by Bay Farm School. Unlike traditional science fairs, Edison’s event did not have judging, though all participants got a blue ribbon. “The fair committee liked this model better, as we knew that most projects would be done at home, with varying amounts of parent support,” says 5th grade teacher Glenn Aitken. “We didn’t want to make this fair a competition.”
Fair organizers encouraged teachers in grades K– 2 and the school’s Special Day Class to do their projects in class, as asking students in those grades to do independent at-home projects might have been too much.  (Some students in those grades were still inspired to do independent projects!)
Students in grades 3-5 did all their work at home. “We only asked that the teachers in those grades share the fair handbook send periodic messages to parents/guardians giving information and encouragement for their child to participate.”
On the night of the actual fair, Edison’s MPR was packed with participants and their families who were perusing the more than 60 projects on display.
"Helping to bring a science and engineering fair back to Edison was an honor and a thrill," says Julia Berger, one of the parent organizers. "The entire process, both as a committee member and a parent up late helping with graphs, was an exciting whirlwind, but one moment stands out as the most profound for me. While asking individual exhibitors if they were surprised by anything having to do with their project, one student (who persevered through a particularly unruly engineering project) thought for a moment and then said, “I was surprised that it was fun!” It doesn’t get more rewarding than that! Big thanks to our committee at Edison, and thanks to the committee at Bay Farm Elementary for helping us get off the ground – Alameda parents are the best!"
Earhart Elementary School hosted a science night with Charles Reynes, who was the California Teacher
Two children playing Jenga
of the Year in 2007. Mr. Reynes' “East Bay Science” brings museum-quality science exhibits to schools for free.
At Earhart’s night, more than 150 families showed up to interact in 21 stations, including Shake Tables, Catapults, Whacky Periscopes, Magnetic Viewers, World Series Circuits, Trucks on a Ramp, and Totally Tubular Tunes.
“Science is all around us,” Reynes said at the end of the fair. “It is in the joy that we find, learn, and discover.”
Mr. Reynes also won the Presidential Award for Science Teaching in 2008.