Sitting in the back of a 7th grade classroom in South Florida, I am amazed at the silence. There are 20 students, sitting in small groups around desks, all intently focused on a movie playing at the front of the room. A few moments later, the lights are turned on, the movie goes off, and their attention turns to a worksheet sitting in the middle of the desk. And then, the debate begins.
“I thought it did a really good job of explaining why the research is important.”
“Yeah, the scientists showed us how this could change the world.”
“But I didn’t think it was that creative The research was creative, but they could have done a better job on the video.”
“I liked it a lot.”
“They showed the same picture more than once! They should have had different pictures of the research and the scientists.”
“So would you give it a 1? I think I would give it a 2. I thought it was the easiest to understand.”
For several minutes, the silence is broken as students review their judging rubric, assigning points for each element and discussing their opinions about the film. It’s a heated debate at times, with students fighting for their favorite videos to be the top-scoring entry. But working in groups, they have to be ready to support their opinions and maybe even sway others in their voting. These students are tough critics, and they’re taking their role as judges seriously.
This is just one classroom out of over 2,200 registered to participate in the 2015 Ocean 180 Video Challenge as student judges. These discussions are happening across 6 continents with over 51,000 middle school students reviewing the top 10 Ocean 180 entries. Walking around the classroom, it’s amazing to imagine this same debate occurring on the other side of the world.
Each year, we get the chance to visit a small number of classrooms participating in Ocean 180. It’s one of my favorite parts of the contest and is a wonderful reminder of how far our finalists are able to reach, both in terms of the geographic spread and the potential impact on individual classrooms.
Aside from the student debate and conversation, many classrooms take the discussion a step further, with teachers prompting questions about research, hypothesis, and scientific inquiry. I watch in amazement as they pull lessons about science and critical thinking out of almost every video. Some have challenged students to think of ways scientists could further test their hypothesis and sparked conversation surrounding experimental design.
One of the more exciting points raised in Ocean 180 classrooms this year is science communication. Teachers are taking the time to remind their students that it while it’s an important skill for scientists, and it’s what they are being judged on, it’s also a skill that students need to develop. For many science classes around the country, this is the time of year when the science fair takes center stage. Here in Florida, we have a number of very talented Ocean 180 student judges preparing to bring their projects to the state fair next month. A portion of their evaluation at this level is their “interview”, where judges are asked to score students on their ability to communicate their research, results, and conclusions effectively. The Ocean 180 finalists have provided great examples of strong scientific communication and allowed students to think carefully about how they will be approaching their own science fair presentations. Hopefully they’ve learned a few tricks and approaches that will help them in the coming weeks!
As we enter the final month of student judging, we would like to extend another “Thank You” to all the scientists who submitted to Ocean 180 and those who are looking for new ways to share their research with the public. While these are just observations from a small set of Ocean 180 classrooms, the response to the finalists’ videos here has been incredible. We certainly hope they are making just as much of an impact across all of our judging classrooms this year.
Are you an Ocean 180 teacher? Do you have a great story to share about your student judges? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and it could become our next blog post!