When done well, project-based science experiences, like science fairs, can lead to deeper understanding of science and engineering practices and increased identity and interest in science. However, many teachers and parents lack the support or resources to design meaningful science fair experiences for students.
Science fairs are a seminal academic experience for an estimated 10 million U.S. students a year, but they can often be low-quality. In an effort to improve the science fair experience, Science Buddies offers educators and students in kindergarten through 12th grade access to an online database with over 1,200 high-quality science fair project ideas; a “selection wizard” to help students find projects in which they’d be most interested; an “Ask An Expert” forum where both teachers and students can receive expert support with projects; and resources for teachers, including lesson plans, pacing calendars, and planning documents. Over the past year, the organization reached over eight million students.
Teacher support is a critical component of a successful science fair. In January 2023, Science Buddies launched its Google Classroom Science Project Pathway, designed to make it easier for teachers to support students as they concept, develop, and present their projects. Through this optional Google Classroom platform, teachers can select and organize science project assignments; plan a project timeline and set due dates; and cue usage of Science Buddies resources like worksheets, articles, and online tools. The Google Classroom platform improves the planning and tracking workload for teachers, while also embedding data collection mechanisms that allow Science Buddies to better understand user experiences and impact.
Science Buddies’ initial internal findings on use of the Google Classroom Science Project Pathway show that 82 percent of student users understand how scientists use the scientific method to answer a question, 65 percent developed new science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) knowledge compared to a typical science class, and 67 percent felt confident in using the scientific method to answer questions outside of science class.
Science Buddies capitalized on a one-year pilot grant with Overdeck Family Foundation to strengthen its revised theory of change and build data infrastructure to test it. The organization also partnered with GlassFrog to develop a rigorous measurement and evaluation framework, which was embedded into the Google Classroom Science Project Pathway.