I’m taking thursday off to judge a middle school science fair. Should be a hoot.  I don’t know what I’ll say if I see an 8th grader with a volcano experiment. Hopefully we’ll see some hypotheses, measurement, data reduction, and conclusions rather than just demonstrations. I’ll try not to make anyone cry.

Update:  By my estimation, the science fair was a success. I was impressed by the number of students who obtained results that did not align with their hypotheses. I made a point of suggesting to them that experiments which give results that are unexpected are the most interesting of all.  We talked about what success really means in experimentation. Most seemed relieved to hear that their efforts weren’t wasted.

After we discussed this, I placed an epistemological time bomb in their consciousness. I asked the question “When people speak with great certainty but never do experiments, what are you going to think about their assertions?”

There were no volcano displays. That is elementary school stuff. But there were several Mentos/Coke Cola research studies. One kid built a potato cannon that used hairspray and a lantern igniter to launch the spuds. I predict that this kid will eventually lose body parts.