Watch the #firstfridaywebinar about Agriscience Fair HERE!
Agriscience Fair, one of those awesome opportunities for FFA members, but why not offer it to every AgEd student?
Four years ago I set out to just that. All of my Basic Agricultural Science students have been doing Agriscience Fair as their semester long project/Final Exam since 2015. And here is how I make it happen…(need all the resources I use? You can check it out here!)
Step 1: START EARLY
Like 4 months in advance early. Yes, you really need that long. The best thing about Agriscience Fair is that it is already “chunked” for you, meaning that you take every part of the Agriscience Fair rubric (ex. introduction, materials & methods, results) and focus on ONE section at a time, give it a due date and then SLOWLY work on the entire project throughout the course of the semester. I start in September and then the actual paper and fair is in mid December before winter break.
Step 2: PROVIDE SUPPORT
Duh, right? But, you are going to need more than 1 day in class to support this project. ASF throws students off the deep end of inquiry and lets be honest, IT’S SCARY! Inquiry is HARD, but for good reason! The harder something is, when you achieve that hard thing, you get a HUGE sense of accomplishment! The kids need that! But, don’t throw them off the deep end with out some swimmies on (you know those blow up things you put on your arms to help you swim?). What does this look like in my classroom? I give me students EVERY WEDNESDAY during the project as an agriscience fair work day. Yes, EVERY WEDNESDAY! Why, they need it and I need it. This gives me time to check in with the kids to see who is achieving and who is behind and needs extra support (if they need it I usually provide it during class and put them into tutoring). I also use these work days as due dates for sections, so I can yell out in class as I am checking sections who is done and who is not. Yes, this does take away from curriculum, but I USUALLY provide curriculum ahead of time so students who are finished with ASF can work on their notebooks (online of course) while others catch up.
Step 3: KEEP PARENTS UP TO DATE
Parent contact is KEY! This is a huge project I do with my freshmen, and it’s not easy! I email my parents BEFORE we start the project so they are aware of the expectations and due dates. I email EVERY time a student does not turn a section in on time. Why, so they 1. can talk to their child 2. so I have documentation that I contacted parents 3. to light a fire under the students! I also email before thanksgiving break, usually I have data/results due the week after thanksgiving break so if I student is behind, at least they have a good seven days to get results. I also email after thanksgiving break because the final due dates are just a few weeks away. I also think that NEXT YEAR, I might invite the parents to the fair to see all the amazingness the kids come up with!
Step 4: HAVE A BACK UP EXPERIMENT IDEA
Are there kids who refuse to do it, YES! You will have a handful who say “Mrs. Nerswick, I CAN’T DO THIS, I can’t come up with an experiment idea!” (Although, I give them LINKS and LINKS of ideas!) So, if we get behind on a section or two, I have a few experiment ideas in my back pocket to assign them. I have thought one or twice to just assign all students an experiment BUT, the best experiments I see year after year are the ones my students came up with ON THEIR OWN! But, for those special little nuggets, I have some easy to implement ideas for them (ex. rate of germination in different conditions, spoilage rates of ________(insert a fruit or veggie), survey of population on GMO’s, organic, free-range etc.).
Step 5: HAVE AN AGRISCIENCE FAIR
Seems easy enough eh? Do it, have an actual agriscience fair! I have mine DURING class (my periods are 50 minutes). I invite at least 5 judges (invite administration, science teachers, alumni, state staff etc.) to come and judge the students. I provide this EASY RUBRIC. I grade their papers pretty tough because we work on it SO MUCH in class, so the presentation we don’t grade as hard. This project counts for 200 points, 100 for the paper and 100 for the presentaion as their FINAL EXAM GRADE! During the ASF, we place all my desks in a circle and the students set up their displays and wait for a judge to come to them. WAIT, rewind….make sure the DAY BEFORE you have a PRACTICE presentation. 1. So you know the kids have their displays done 2. So the kids can practice their presentation BEFORE judges. I give my students this presentation postcard, they have to present for 6 different students and the students listening sign their name and write one comment for the presenter. I collect that as a classwork grade. OK, now back to the day of the ASF, judges meet with 5-10 students then the judges reconvene and choose a few experiments to revisit because they were steller. Then ALL the judges go to re-interview those few experiments and pick a top 3. Then I present those top 3 students with a certificate! That’s it! Super simple and effective.
Step 6: DO NOT GIVE UP/DO NOT GIVE IN
This is HARD for you as the teacher too. Getting the kids to buy it, staying on top of 80+ students deadlines, emailing parents weekly, grading 80+ papers, organizing judges etc. It takes a lot of time and patience. BUT, I GUARANTEE that the day of the agriscience fair YOU WILL BE HAPPY with the result. Not going to lie, EVERY YEAR I ask myself “Sarah, why do you do this every year?! You are insane!” and EVERY YEAR at the agriscience fair I say to myself “THIS IS THE BEST THING EVERRRRR!” So keep working, YOU CAN DO IT!
Step 7: NEED SUPPORT FOR YOU?
Seems like a lot right? Well, I have ALL the guess work figured out for you AND created an editable resource that YOU CAN GET RIGHT NOW and implement into you classroom. This resource includes the following:
Information/Due Date Worksheet
ASF Ideas Worksheet
ASF HyperDoc for helpful hints (*Includes link to Google Doc Written Report Template)
Back Up ASF Ideas Worksheet
Student Accountability Sheet
Practice Presentation Postcard
YASSS! Am I right! If you don’t know where to start, this is a one stop shop for some resources. I am also a HUGE fan on using the National FFA Resources to supplement the resources I have created to go along with it. With the HOPES that what my students create align with the National standard so students have the opportunity to submit for state judging!
So, are you in? Are you ready to do an Agriscience Fair? Get your Agriscience Fair in a Box HERE!