News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Meet me at the Fair

Each spring for the past nine years, members of the Sisters Science Club have sung this Judy Garland lyric as they began preparations for the annual Sisters Science Fair. Now that the Sisters School District has decided to suspend the Fair (hopefully for just a year), let’s consider the wondrous benefits of a community-wide science fair.

First, for the students, the fair provides an opportunity unique in the District for students in all grades, K-12, to come together and interact in a way that is educational, competitive, and simply a lot of fun. And they do this in the nucleus of the adult community, engaging parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and mentors in their experience.

Second, for the teachers, the fair provides three unique opportunities. Teachers can instruct (and can grade) their students on how to present scientific data to the public, in tri-fold posters, experiments and demonstrations. They can see what other teachers and students are doing throughout the District. And they can learn themselves of the richness of science in the exhibits from club members and the community.

Third, for the community, the fair not only offers the opportunity to see students show off their stuff and the opportunity to learn science themselves by seeing and doing experiments, but perhaps most important, the fair engages community members in helping produce it. And the participation has been phenomenal; in many years we have had more volunteers than tasks.

And, for every year, community organizations have contributed exhibits: Kiwanis, the U.S. Forest Service, St. Charles Medical Center, Mohr Solutions, Sisters Astronomy Club, Rocket Club, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Energyneering, OMSI, and the High Desert Museum. And finally, over the years, many families have joined their students to create experiments, design catapults, or just explore exhibits together.

Fourth, the fair honors and demonstrates the importance of science in society. At the time of the first fair in 2011, the acronym STEM had not yet been coined — there was no unified movement in education for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Today, Sisters schools are part of a national effort to adopt a rigorous new science curriculum that runs from kindergarten through high school called NGSS — Next Generation Science Standards.

Finally, the Science Club’s lecture series at The Belfry, with more than 50 presentations so far, has stimulated science education in the schools. Many speakers visit the schools for presentations and classroom activities. Many teachers give credit to students who attend the lectures. This interaction has resulted in exhibits at the fair that have been on the forefront of scientific thinking, such as Einstein’s model of gravity. In addition, several lecturers have initiated and/or supported student field trips to the Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the Flight Science program and the Seed-to-Table organization.

The greatest discovery of science has been that science itself is a way of exploring the world that discloses its secrets and reveals facts that can be verified by others. The exercise and application of science is our best hope, perhaps our only hope, for addressing global warming, cancer, drug addiction and many other current and future problems.

All of us, students and community members, must become citizens of science if we are to be fully engaged in our world. The Sisters Science Fair gives all of us the opportunity to participate. We hope you will meet us at the Fair in 2021.


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