Presenting Powerful Outlines for Science Fair Reports
- Grades: 6–8
- Unit Plan:
- Reflect on the role of science reports in the larger scientific community
- Become familiar with one scientist's experience preparing a report
- Identify the key points to build a strong science report and create a lively presentation to share knowledge with their peers
- Write a substantial outline for their science fair project report
- Writing with Scientists Activities
- Computer(s) with Internet access and audio capability
- Group Assessment Sheets: 5 per group
- Presentation supplies such as poster board, markers, access to copier
- Writing with Scientists Worksheet (PDF): one set per student
- Group Assessment (PDF)
- Optional: LCD or overhead projector to display Writing with Scientists
Set Up and Prepare
- To get the most out of this workshop, your class should first investigate a topic of interest. Students may:
- Make observations in a natural environment, like a park or your backyard
- Do experiments in class or at home and record the results
- Go to the library to gather information
- Visit a museum, historic site, or state park to make observations or conduct research or any combination in order to investigate something that interests you.
Ask your class to define the role of the science report in a science fair project. Begin a discussion about why it's important for science fair participants to not only create an informative and attractive presentation, but also to detail their information, ideas, and research in a science report.
Go to the Writing with Scientists site. Read aloud the first page to introduce the students to Dr. Susan Perkins, a microbiologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and the site host. Explain that students will follow the same steps professional scientists take when preparing a report for publication.
Students will now hear Dr. Perkins story. Either as a class or in small groups, click the orange "start" button and then click the "play" button in the Scientist at Work section located on the right panel of each of the six steps on the site. Students can read along as they listen. If using audio isn't feasible, you can read the six "Scientist at Work" sections aloud or ask volunteers to do so.
Ask students to share what they found interesting or informative about Dr. Perkins' story.
Explain to students that along with their written science report, oral presentation is another important way they will express themselves and their ideas at the science fair. For this project, they will be the presenters, much in the same way they will present their science fair projects.
Divide students up into five equal groups. Assign each group a number 1-5.
Tell the students that each group will be responsible for presenting one Writing with Scientists step. Group one will present step one and so on. Each group will have a predetermined amount of time in which to present (10-20 minutes).
Groups may interact or assign brief hands-on learning tasks to the rest of the class as part of their presentation. They may use the blackboard, handouts, classroom computers, examples, or other similar supplies.
When each group has completed their presentation the other groups will be charged with assessing the presentation's success. The groups' assessments will account for a predetermined percentage of the overall grade for this project (50% - 75%).
The step 1 worksheet will be assigned as homework following the step 1 presentation and so on. Students will then have an additional amount of time (1-2 weeks) to fully craft and polish their science reports.
After providing an overview of the assignment, allow students to brainstorm their presentation with their group for the rest of the class period. Urge the groups to familiarize themselves not only with their step, but also with the other steps in the process to fully understand how their step fits into the overall goal of writing a science report.
Groups should have access to the Writing with Scientists site. If this is not possible, print out one set of steps 1-5 for each group's use.
Allow groups to meet together to plan their presentations. Moving around desks or allowing students to sit together in designated areas may help spark the creative flow. Stop by each group to answer questions and make suggestions.
When half of the class period has elapsed, write the guidelines for Group Assessment (PDF) on the board or prop up a piece of poster board showing these guidelines. Inform the groups that this is how they will be evaluated and how they will evaluate the other groups.
Groups may wish to access additional information from the Web or through your classroom or school library to enhance their presentation. Remind groups that the focus of their presentation should be on their Writing with Scientists step specifically.
Have a student volunteer pass out one Group Assessment sheet to each group. Have a student volunteer pass out one "Step 1: Describe Your Big Question" worksheet to each student.
Introduce the first group's presentation on Step 1.
After the presentation, invite the class audience to ask questions. Make sure the class audience has the information they need in order to complete their Group Assessment sheet.
Following the 10-20 minute presentation, allow for 5-10 minutes for groups to fill out their Group Assessment sheets. Collect the sheets.
If time remains, allow students to begin filling in their "Step 1: Describe Your Big Question" worksheets. Using the information in the presentation and the notes and other resources for the science fair project, students should fill out their worksheet for their own science fair project reports.
Repeat steps 1-4 for the remaining presentations.
Once students have successfully completed all five worksheets, they will have a substantial outline for their science fair report.
Supporting All Learners
Science Standards 4th Edition
- Understands the nature of scientific explanations (e.g., use of logically consistent arguments; emphasis on evidence; use of scientific principles, models, and theories; acceptance or displacement of explanations based on new scientific evidence)
- Knows that there is no fixed procedure called "the scientific method," but that investigations involve systematic observations, carefully collected, relevant evidence, logical reasoning, and some imagination in developing hypotheses and explanations
- Establishes relationships based on evidence and logical argument (e.g., provides causes for effects)
- Knows that scientific inquiry includes evaluating results of scientific investigations, experiments, observations, theoretical and mathematical models, and explanations proposed by other scientists (e.g., reviewing experimental procedures, examining evidence, identifying faulty reasoning, identifying statements that go beyond the evidence, suggesting alternative explanations)
- Knows possible outcomes of scientific investigations (e.g., some may result in new ideas and phenomena for study; some may generate new methods or procedures for an investigation; some may result in the development of new technologies to improve the collection of data; some may lead to new investigations)
Allow students time to transform their worksheets into a completed science fair report complete with cover. Use peer review sessions as part of the revision process. Once students have successfully completed their final draft, encourage them to publish their report online via the Writing with Scientists publishing tool to share it with other student scientists.
Create a cohesive performance from the combined presentations. Invite other classes to attend.
Over the course of this project, students must assess one another's work. Invite a discussion about grades and grading and how success on a project can be effectively measured.
This project assesses students' ability to:
- Work toward a common goal as a group
- Understand the steps to creating a science report
- Explain and express knowledge to others
- Translate abstract concepts into their own science fair reports
Use the Group Assessment sheet to record your own impressions of each group's presentation. Additionally, note how successfully students are able to use the information presented in their own Writing with Scientist worksheets.