Saturday, May 28, 2011

Science Fair

We recently hosted a science fair here at the Agrarian School. The fair itself lasted an afternoon but it was two months in the making. We met with interested students twice a week, teaching them the scientific method, helping them plan and execute their projects and then write up their reports. Students don't often get a chance to think for themselves as most of their schooling consists of rote memorization. Science Fair was a unique opportunity that encouraged curiosity, creativity and independent learning.

There was no direct funding for science fair and students had to be resourceful. One student used cell phone batteries to power his circuit board. Another disassembled old phone chargers to get LED light bulbs. Others used bottles, bits of styrofoam, wood and avocado pits rescued out of the trash. Display boards were made with cardboard boxes donated by local vendors.

The making of the display boards was the biggest challenge. We spent two long nights in the computer lab while the students chicken-pecked at the keyboard. They learned how to format with Microsoft Word and some of them made graphs with Microsoft Excel. All of the computers were virus-ridden and I couldn't save their projects on a flash drive or a disk so we had to carry the school's single printer from computer to computer and print out each project separately. One computer wouldn't accept the printer at all and I had to re-type the kid's entire project onto another computer.

There was a lot of last-minute craziness (two students started their projects the day before the fair), but it all worked out. Only two of the eight judges we invited showed up but we found substitutes at the last minute.

Overall it was a success and I appreciated the opportunity to work closely with some bright and motivated students. I also had a great counterpart, Clara. She's one of the two female Mozambican teachers at our school and has become a great friend.

Below are some pictures and brief descriptions of the projects.

Students preparing their projects

Samuel - Global Warming: a demonstration of the greenhouse effect.

Jorge - Conductivity of various substances.

Ester - Which foods attract more ants?

Helio - Which electrical circuit is more efficient: parallel or continuous?

Geno - The response of rocks when heated by fire

Alexandre - Comparison between corn and been seedlings grown in the light and the dark.

Lino - Comparison of the permeability of different types of soils.

Dercio - Changes in buoyancy with changes in the salinity of water.

Mastel - Growth of been seedlings in soils fertilized with cow and chicken manures.

People checking out the displays

Lino explaining his project

Judges discussing and selecting winners

Clara and me with the two winners: Dercio and Alexandre

The whole gang

The provincial science fair is in July and we'll be taking the two winners plus two female students. Ester was the only girl who actually participated in the local fair. Another female student prepared a project but her guardians prevented her from coming at the last minute. I'm hoping we can convince them to let her come to the provincial fair.

One of our judges was a science teacher from another secondary school nearby and he borrowed the manual so he can start a science fair of his own. Ours was just one of many science fairs all over Mozambique. Winners of the local fairs go on to provincial fairs and those winners go on to a national fair. Last year the winners of the national fair received netbook computers!


  1. Those look like great projects, and practical too! I'm very impressed with your students. Good luck at the provincial fair!

  2. What great opportunities for these students to learn! They are lucky to have such a dedicate and encouraging teacher, mentor, motivator as you!