March 31, 2021
826 Boston extends our heartfelt congratulations to the winners of the Boston Public Schools Citywide Science Fair. Despite the challenges of conducting empirical research during a pandemic, these resourceful students completed and shared independent research projects on topics that mattered to them. The full list of high school and middle school winners are posted online.
Two of these students will continue onto the prestigious International Science and Engineering Fair, five have received invitations to Broadcom Masters, a premier national STEM competition, and many more will be moving on to the Massachusetts Science and Engineering Fair.
It was our privilege to support 16 of these winners in 826 Boston’s inaugural Science Fair Boot Camp, held during February school vacation week. 826 Boston staff kicked off the session with a lesson on the differences between research papers presentations. Students were then paired with trained STEM tutors who helped them polish their research papers, hone their presentations, and prepare for judging. The students conducted independent research on topics that spanned a range of disciplines—computer science, biochemistry, environmental science, psychology, and animal behavior, to name a few.
Students appreciated the individualized tutoring support and gained some valuable insights along the way. Chelsea, a sixth-grade student at the William Ohrenberger Elementary School, wrote, “I learned about how to be more clear in my writing thanks to my tutor! It was really fun and helpful to have a different perspective.”
Josephine, a seventh-grader at the Boston Latin School, took away a valuable lesson about scientific inquiry. She wrote, “I learned that you don’t have to have the answer to everything!”
At 826 Boston, where students can publish anything from stories about superheroes to calls-to-action for community-led change—technical scientific writing might seem off-topic. However, the goals of the Science Fair Boot Camp are central to the mission of 826 Boston.
We seek to make positive contributions to the communities we serve in part by empowering students to write about and share what matters to them. Students participating in the Citywide Science Fair conduct independent research on topics of their choosing, often ones of personal interest and importance. This kind of project-based learning is valuable for developing agency, voices, and advocacy in students. While many students receive support during the planning stages of their projects, they do not typically receive as much guidance on communicating their ideas, even though it is such a crucial skill to convey one’s findings. Employers, especially in STEM fields, consistently report that communication skills are what they seek in candidates.
The value of communicating scientific research extends beyond the science fair. It is a skill that can be leveraged in calls-to-action for community-led change. Many students participating in 826 Boston’s Science Fair Boot camp researched topics that have public health and social implications. One student investigated which fabrics best protect us from ultraviolet rays. Another explored whether or not it was practical to sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide—and address global warming—by infusing it in the water we give plants. These students are learning how to use scientific research—and storytelling—for social good.
The abilities that they hone in the process of researching civically-minded scientific questions, finding solutions to technical problems of social importance, and communicating those findings to benefit others are superpowers and ones that we at 826 Boston plan to cultivate in the years to come.