Boston Latin School 7th Grade Science Fair

In the next few weeks I’m on the blog again sharing another exciting best practice of middle school Guided Inquiry. Here’s a little background on how this all began.

Last summer, I had the privilege of working with a cohort of teachers from Boston Public Schools in the Guided Inquiry Design Academy‘s online institute.  They were an eager bunch of librarians and their collaborating teachers who came ready to design new units of inquiry all across the grades and all across the district.  One of these teams was the 7th grade science team from Boston Latin School. In the next few posts I’ll tell their story.

This year was different for everyone in every way.  While the national conversation in the media around learning loss continued, I found it exciting that even through the challenges of remote learning, this team was able to persevere and implement a high quality learning experience for their students.  It was inspiring to see best practice happening.  GId was being used through the fall to engage these 7th grade students in inquiry.  The teams’ first goal was to develop students’ curiosity about science topics so that they could each create their own unique and interesting science experiment for the Science Fair.

Fast forward to December, the team invited me to the SHARE of the student work which worked like a large zoom conference with breakout rooms across the morning. Each room there were presentations from students focused on different science disciplines.  Afterward hearing from the students and witnessing their depth of learning and engagement in this process, even while in a remote learning setting, I was so inspired.  I wrote about it in our newsletter. You can read that here.  Scroll down to the end of that newsletter to find the story- it’s the last story of New Year inspiration.

As I found this to be an amazing exemplar for how to use GId to accomplish a high level of engagement in the science fair, I’m happy to be able to share it with you. My hope is that in reading these posts, you may be inspired to transform your science fair – minimizing those copies of Pintrest/YouTube experiments and maximizing student curiosity and real questions that lead to deeper learning.

Stay tuned over the next posts as I’ll go into detail about what this three month journey looked like, with some examples of student work and voices from the team, how the teachers set the project up for success, and how GId played into the design of the Science Fair.

A Little Background on the Project

Boston Latin School is a public school of choice in Boston.  Established in the year 1635, it is the oldest public school in the United States.  Many traditions of academic excellence run deep in this school. One of those traditions is the seventh graders’ participation in the Science Fair. Massachusetts has a long running (since 1949) state science fair and BLS prides itself in the number of entries that are accepted each year.

Many schools across the country send science fair projects home with students to work out on their own.  In contrast, this school leverages that moment for a high quality learning experience guided by teachers, and it pays off greatly!  At Boston Latin, students in middle school have been using the science fair to learn about science literacy for the past 75 years!  But those traditions didn’t stop this seventh grade team and their librarian from working to improve how they design the learning experience for their students. The team of four teachers and their school librarian were seeking to maximize the learning and include deep research and authentic questioning in all the science fair projects.  Guided Inquiry Design turned out to be a perfect pairing for them.

The Seventh Grade Science Fair projects are completed over three months in the beginning of the school year, with a culminating Share out before the winter break.  The teachers recognize that knowledge building takes time.  One thing they value in this project is helping students understand where scientific knowledge comes from, how it grows within the scientific community through research and the role of sharing scientific knowledge with that community.  They set up the learning experience so this would be the large picture connecting the students to the real world of scientists.  This science fair was not JUST a project, there were deep learning goals at the core of the design.

In their plans the goal and concept behind the work was that all students learn about how a body of knowledge is built.  In their words by the end the students would know and be able to

Use research and the scientific method to answer a question about the world around us and share that answer with others.

  • Knowledge/body of knowledge (individual/collective)

  • Curiosity/interest drives science

  • Communicating to contribute to a body of knowledge 

  • Creating knowledge that is usable/leads to action (useful)


With that commendable start, in our next post, we’ll talk about how the unit looked and what made it unique.

Thanks for reading.


Leslie Maniotes, PhD

Author Guided Inquiry Design




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