What Support can be given to a Student?
As the rules clearly specify, “Entries must be the student’s own work”. Any assistance given must be documented in an “Acknowledgements” section. These rules, however, do not restrict support being given to students. In fact, the more support teachers, mentors, schools and parents can give to students, the more opportunity students will have to be able to plan their own original investigations and come up with their own discoveries. For instance, the more coaching of basic skills a soccer player receives, the more opportunity that player has of developing their own creative moves. Have a look at some video footage from one of our Training Workshops where this question of support was addressed.
These are some practical ways that teachers, mentors, schools and parents can support a student’s project:
- Familiarise yourself with all the rules and due dates of the Young Scientist Awards.
- Before assigning the project, consider whether your students should prepare their project to meet the requirements of subsequent science fairs, such as the BHP Billiton Science and Engineering Awards and Intel ISEF, which both involve minor variations in rules and judging criteria.
- Devote a few lessons early in the year to introduce key components of a scientific investigation or invention.
- Develop a timeline that allows plenty of time for students to complete different sections of their innovative device or investigation. Write brief progress reports for parents to provide an opportunity for parents to help with long-term organisation of their child’s project.
- Inform your students what makes a good investigation or innovative device. Keep copies of your best student projects to use as benchmarks for future years.
- Meet with students individually to ensure they are on the right track. Discuss their project options, and ensure their selected option has a testable hypothesis.
- Familiarise your students with the judging criteria outlined in the scoring rubric for their age and category.
- Encourage each student to seek mentoring advice from an expert in their specified area of research.
- Provide students with the “big picture” of how exciting it is to be a scientist, mathematician or an engineer. Display an infectious enthusiasm for your area of work to inspire them.
- Explain how important it is to conduct a thorough background research to see what’s been done before.
- Provide students with equipment and experiences that schools may not be able to provide themselves.
- Give scientific direction for the next step in the student’s project. This is especially necessary if you are mentoring a primary student whose teacher is not STEM-trained.
- Maintain a weekly correspondence with your mentored student(s) and periodically check the progress of their report and logbook.
- Show students some past winning projects so they see what is involved in setting out a project.
- Encourage your teachers to train as assessors for the Young Scientist Awards. Assessing student projects is the best professional development activity for teachers responsible for coordinating student research projects.
- Promote student involvement in the Young Scientist Awards in school newsletters and provide as much communication with parents as possible.
- Organise a school STEM fair to showcase the amazing investigations and innovative devices produced.
- The best way to help your child formulate an idea is to pose questions and problems as they come to your attention.
- Take an interest in your child’s science project and familiarise yourselves with the timeline that the school has established for the periodic completion of different components of your child’s project.
- Encourage your child to daily document everything they do in their logbook or folio. Remind your child to keep a photographic record of each stage of their investigative or design process.
- Be prepared to provide some financial support in the purchase of necessary materials and equipment and make yourself available to drive your child to libraries, shops, businesses or even research institutions.
- Make sure that your child learned something during this whole experience while having fun doing it!