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Their Final Project: Explain It to a Six-Year-Old

7 days ago

Every high school teacher has a go-to lesson plan for combatting senioritis: Some raise the stakes with a large-scale final project. Others load a movie to engage relaxed students.

But for some seniors at Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster, creating a lesson plan is the assignment.

The project is called Science is Fun. Its goal? To explain complex environmental and health issues in a science fair, just a few weeks before graduation. And the audience? The first graders of Nativity of Our Lord Grade School, also in Warminster.

This interaction between younger and older students creates a memorable exchange of ideas. Elementary students get excited to see new concepts applied in real life. And the graduates-to-be are challenged to research and showcase their favorite topics in a new light.

“To teach the lessons to elementary students, we needed to have a deeper understanding of the materials — and a more creative approach,” says Kate Horan, a 2017 Archbishop Wood graduate who presented a lesson on lungs. “We took it seriously because we were responsible for teaching the kids what we were doing.”

Science is Fun began has a collaboration between first grade Nativity of Our Lord teacher Mary Beth Conricode and Archbishop Wood teacher Bridget McLaughlin, who teaches honors biology and environmental science.

“I saw the need for a more dynamic activity at the end of the year, where students could apply the concepts they were interested in,” McLaughlin says. “I wanted them to have something meaningful they could remember, so they could look back on this event to recall what they learned.”

In that regard, the program has been a success. McLaughlin reports that the novelty of filling the teacher’s shoes — along with the freedom of choosing their own topics — motivates students to produce some of their best work.

“I saw the need for a more dynamic activity at the end of the year, where students could apply the concepts they were interested in,”

Each group of seniors must delegate tasks, write a central “take-home message,” prepare presentation materials, and tie the lesson back to at least five class concepts. Recent presentations have covered bee conservation, renewable energy, and DIY bird feeding, each including a small item that participants can take home to explain the lesson to their families.

For the first graders, that effort pays off as a day packed with eye-opening experiences.

“I still have students four years later tell me, ‘It was the best day ever!’”

“I still have students four years later tell me, ‘It was the best day ever!’” says Conricode. “They love learning from the ‘Wood kids.’ It really sparks an interest in science topics beyond our curriculum.”

But what do the elementary students really retain? We polled former first graders to see what they remembered from their time at the science fair.

Second grader Sylvie Salter took it to heart that even the smallest action can impact the environment. Fourth grader Abby Troy will never forget seeing how light made her classmates’ pupils constrict and dilate.

And for fifth grader Tommy Kelly, the Science is Fun fair was exactly that — fun.

“I liked getting out of class,” he says, “and doing science for half the day.”