Inclusion Instructional Coach at Chelsea High School (CHS) Angela Raimo approached her colleagues in February with an idea. A Science Fair for the Functional Academics and Social Communications students at CHS.
This concept had never been attempted before, but the special education teachers and paraprofessionals were on board to provide this learning opportunity for their students. The end result was a spectacular in-person Science Fair for the students to discuss their work, present their findings, and showcase the scientific process that led to their discoveries.
The fair was a final destination for students that included many stops along the road map to the big day, which occurred on May 23. Once the staff prepared materials to share with students, a months-long process began. Students created 25 different projects. A variety of project types were selected among Biology, Physics, Engineering, or Chemistry. Examples included coding, bridge building, the physics of bouncing balls, and many others.
Students began with model drawing and writing predictions for what experiment they were conducting. After model drawing and writing predictions, students conducted research related to their topic and identified goals that they would like to achieve through their experiments. These steps led up to the April Vacation, and upon their return to school, students began the hands-on work including the experiments and designing their posters for the presentations at the fair.
“It was really rewarding and confirming. I knew the students could do this. It was validating, all of the students’ hard work,” commented Ms. Raimo.
The students completed work that they had not done prior to this academic year, and learned valuable lessons through their scientific work. The process of trial-and-error showed students what scientists go through professionally, and the teachers worked with students on how to self-reflect about how to do their experiments differently to achieve different results.
There was also a focus on connecting the work to “Life Skills” such as public speaking, how to not give up during the challenges of life, gaining self-confidence through this work and more. Students were also inspired by examples of scientists with disabilities as shown to them in class by their teachers.
In late May, the Science Fair arrived with tremendous fanfare. Each student prepared to discuss their findings and process as well as answer any questions that attendees had for them.
Superintendent Dr. Almi G. Abeyta, Assistant Superintendent and Acting Chelsea High School Principal Michael Lovato, and other CPS leaders participated, as did many of their CHS classmates.
All students received a certificate of achievement for participating in the 2022 science fair. Their confidence and academic growth was evident throughout the process, and especially clear as they cheered for all their peers when they were awarded certificates.