For the last several years, all freshmen and sophomores who were taking an honors-level science class were required to complete a project for the Lincoln High School science fair, held each year in early February. The process would begin with students researching and choosing their topics and completing a pre-lab in the beginning of the school year; and then would complete the project itself, analysis, and a post-lab, in addition to a posterboard and oral presentation, on their chosen subject. Starting with this year’s freshman class, however, that process has changed; as they “won’t be doing one as a ninth grader in February,” according to Mr. Graham Souness, the chair of the science department.
“It’s basically became a year and a half process,” says Souness, that the students will start in the fall of their ninth grade year and will finish in February of the next year with the culminating presentation. For the first part of their freshman year, up until around the holiday break, the students will be researching topics and choosing one that they would like to work on. If their topic is approved then they can start working on their research and pre-lab once they return from the break. “They do all the background research in the second semester,” he says, and they will have their pre-lab reports completed by the end of the year. And over summer, should they so choose, the rising sophomores can do “prelim experiments,” to see if they need to make any modifications to their experiments and to see how long it will take before they are expected to do it for real in the beginning of their sophomore year.
Souness cites several reasons as to why his department changed this process. “We want to give them time to explore more rigorous topics,” he said, that would be appropriate for a high school level science fair. “In the past, it was squeezed...into basically three months,” and because of that, “some of the topics weren’t what we were looking for; they weren’t at the level of what a high school science fair project should look like,” according to Souness, who added that was “through no fault of their own; just everything was hectic.” Students will be given more time to explore and choose their topic, one that Souness hopes will be “something that they’re interested in, [and] something that will benefit society and the environment.” The students will also have more time–“the whole second semester, really”–to do in-depth background research for their projects as well.
This February, the only students who will be presenting science fair projects will be the current sophomores, the class of 2020. For this year’s freshmen (the class of 2021) and on, they will have a year and a half to complete their projects. Sophomore Ben Goho believes that it’s definitely “better for freshmen to be able to have time and know what they’re doing before diving right into the process.” Goho, who is completing his second science fair project this year, wishes that “my class and the previous classes had a chance to do this, but I’m glad that they won’t be as stressed as we were freshman year.” Like Souness, he believes that “it definitely gives them a chance” to do better and more in-depth projects, and that it “will definitely help them find the real world application” within their projects.