St Nicholas College Rabat Middle School Malta
The planning phase
During the initial phase of the Science Week Competition, we held a special assembly. This was done using the Microsoft TEAMS platform which is currently being used to communicate with the students as they are in their classes. During said assembly, we promoted the Science Week Virtual Competition. The Science Week Competition is a yearly event at our school but this year, it had to evolve to be in line with the COVID-19 regulations.
The students were thrilled and they registered for the event within a week. This clearly shows how eager they were to participate in something which goes beyond traditional schooling. As part of the promotion, we also recorded the explanation of what was going to happen. We sent this video explanation to all the students using Microsoft TEAMS assignment feature. By doing this, we also managed to reach those students who were staying home since they are vulnerable students. In fact, we had quite a nice number of these students who participated in the event.
Mentoring the students
All the science teachers were involved in this process. We, as a team, guided the students to finetune their research question and to better understand what the scientific process really entails.
We also created a TEAM for the students since we wished to keep a close contact with them (although a virtual one) and support them as much as possible throughout their whole research process.
26 students in all carried out scientific research and sent their recorded videos of their research project to us. They were both yr 7 and yr 8 students and their research quality varied from amateurish to fully edited. Still, every research was a success in our eyes. They managed to beat all odds and fight against all the limitations that they are facing because of COVID-19. They are all winners.
The Science Week
During the Science Week, we showcased all the videos during special assemblies. These assemblies last only about 15min and only managed to show 3 to 4 videos every time. It took quite a while to show all the videos but it was well worth it and the students really enjoyed seeing their school mates carry out some real science research like pros. We did not call out any winners before we managed to show all the research projects.
None of the science teachers at our school was involved in the judging. This was done to avoid conflict of interest since the science teachers were mentoring the students throughout their research process.
We asked the two Science Education Officers, a Science Head of Department and a Physics Education Officer to pose as judges. A judging system was created using Microsoft Form and each video was judged twice by two different judges. This ensured that the process was as fair as possible.
Conclusion and feedback
By far, having the Science Research Competition in this virtual fashion is a far cry from the full experience that students have when they are face to face and share their experiences first hand. Still, this process helped us find the benefits of using such methods. The way we managed to communicate with all the students involved was very effective. All these methods should not be lost. Students learnt how to use technology very quickly and these skills should be encouraged.
We are also looking into the idea of using this way of communicating Science Research Projects on a larger scale where we involve more Middle Schools in a more National approach. Stay tuned for updates on the matter.