I came to judge the middle schoolers again as a Junior judge. I love doing this. I was I could hug all the students and tell them ALL to become scientists. The middle school kids are so sweet. They are actually scared of me! I tried to write as many comments as I possibly could on everyone's sheets - improvements for the next year. I didn't feel like I was doing a terribly good job in the beginning, but I felt like I improved some over time.
I talked with another lady judge who was getting her M.A. in teaching at Emory and looking to teach biology or chemistry. She was judging highschoolers. I told her I was afraid to do that. She said she thought I could easily do it. So, when I was done and they asked me to stay extra to judge highschoolers, I did. I judged a whole bunch in Medicine and Health, because apparently no one wanted to judge those. It was quite interesting and not nearly as scary as I expected, though one was rather tough to understand. I was terribly amused that I ended up judging two different kids of Emory professors/researchers. I noted their names so I could figure out who the professor was.
I tried to leave after that, but they asked me to stay some more, so I did and judged four more projects before leaving. Apparently they needed more people to judge chemistry. Based on their panicked conversations, I was scared about the people they were filling in the judging slots with - they were making me want to judge the projects instead of whoever they were getting. But I think it worked out in the end.
My favorite was the last project I judged. He was a student who is doing an internship at GA Tech and was looking at the formation of nanoparticles. It was fascinating. I asked him how he got the internship. He said he just asked a bunch of professors whose research that he liked and one of them finally said yes. That made me SOOO happy. You see people - persistence does pay. There's a few pictures below. I didn't get to take near as many as I would have liked.
The big things I was looking for in the projects - what you'd expect
1. Was there a control? If it's missing what should it be?
2. Are their repetitions? (There rarely are in middle school, alas.)
3. Are the dependent and independent variables clearly labeled? (many were not, were confused or labeled mixedly). If they are wrong, what should they be?
4. Do the graphs make sense and have labels?
5. Does the student understand the science and possible applications? (Can find this out by asking about background research, about how he got the project idea, what would he improve for next year and other thought questions as they pop up.)
Other Secondary Questions/Considerations
*These questions are still important but pull less weight, unless one of them is really disproportionate.
1. Based on his answers, did the student do the work himself? If he had access to a lab, how much of his thought process was his? (I judged those with lab access a lot harsher and asked specific questions to draw this out. I discovered that the ones who had lab access that I judged really didn't have that much help otherwise, which was good.)
2. Is he interested / passionate about the idea or he doesn't really want to be here?
3. How original is the idea? Did he put a lot of thought into the project's execution?
4. Can the student communicate / talk about his project effective? Is he able to explain the science and what he did without much prompting?