On how iPraxis science fairs add value at Northwood Academy

I asked Meagan Hopkins-Dower how she thought iPraxis’ involvement with Northwood Academy’s science fair added a special value to the students’ education, here’s her response:

I have always thought of the science fair as a way for the students to explore science in their own terms and investigate topics that interest them, but are not necessarily covered by the curriculum.  By being a home project, it is also a way for students to apply the information they gain in school to a real question of their own design.  When outside scientists and engineers (from iPRAXIS) come in to judge and talk to the students, they give value to the students’ work.  It changes the project from a school assignment to something that can be a point of pride for the students.  As a former teacher, there have been multiple instances where several years afterward, students will contact me asking about their projects.  Not only do the students think of their science fair projects as more important, but the iPRAXIS judges give advice for future projects and are ACTUAL SCIENTISTS who are clearly professionals and yet attainable to the students.
After Northwood’s Science Fair, selected students will work weekly with iPRAXIS volunteers (Scienteers) to refine their projects in preparation for Philadelphia’s city-wide Science Fair, George Washington Carver Science Fair, in March.  The students work one-on-one with a Scienteer and are able to really make their projects more competitive.  The Scienteers guides the students through each step of the scientific method.  This is crucial as many families do not have the scientific knowledge to provide this high level of support for the students.  Again, this process lends credeance to the student’s efforts as the Scienteer acts as a resource for the student and the student learns how continual evaluation is used by working scientists/engineers.  While discussing the student’s project, the Scienteer also will discuss his or her career and educational background.  This mentoring aspect of iPRAXIS exposes students to careers of which the students may previously have been unaware.
iPRAXIS also supports Northwood’s students by providing civil engineering mentors to help lead an afterschool engineering club.  We coordinate guest speakers who range from University of Pennsylvania Cell and Molecular Biology graduate students to John McNeil, the President and CEO of the Eastern Regional Treatment Center Cancer Treatment Centers of America.  The presenters come to Northwood and speak to the students about their careers, educational paths, what makes science so fascinating, and expose students to scientific topics that support the curriculum.  Finally iPRAXIS has supported supplemental science curriculum by providing scientific materials and professional development to Northwood’s science teacher in the past.
Well said.