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Cottonwood Creek School Adapts with First Virtual Science Fair

February 16, 2021

As our society churns through the eleventh month of a global pandemic, a huge burden has been placed upon our schools, staffs, and families. However, most are responding in ways that we would expect – with resilience, creativity, and resourcefulness. One example of this adaptability was recently demonstrated by the Science Fair recently conducted at Cottonwood Creek School. Given the challenges of distance learning and the discouragement of large indoor gatherings, the decision to go virtual was automatic.

However, the standard for decades included a visual display on a 36” x 48” trifold poster board. Experiment rationale, process and conclusions would need to be illustrated on a three- dimensional piece of media. But as we have learned in 2020 and continue to do so now, we reconsider how to accomplish things in new ways. We recently visited with CCS PFC President Eman Tai Ahmad. Our mission was to discuss both the reengineering of the Science Fair and to gain her perspective as an active volunteer leader.

Eman Tai Ahmad, Cottonwood Creek School, PFC President. Photo provided by: Eman Tai Ahmad

OneDublin.org: Given the status of distance learning for all Dublin schools, what were your expectations for participation in the 2021 Science Fair and how did you go about motivating students to participate?

Eman Tai Ahmad: “We were expecting lower than usual participation and we had much lower participation. We normally have hundreds of students participate. This year we had only tens of students participate.  We have lower than normal participation in all our events, but we felt it was important to explore whatever options we could to give the students outlets for their creativity and curiosity.”

OneDublin.org: Our publication had the good fortune to judge in the inaugural CCS Science Fair three years ago. However, the current judging rubric is much more sophisticated. Please shed some light on how this was enhanced.

Eman Tai Ahmad: “We’ve been lucky to partner with the Alameda County Science and Engineering Fair. We revamped our rubric to coincide more with their guidelines so that students could begin training for participation in the ACSEF from their early educational years. We also offer a Science Fair Mentorship program for 6-8 graders to help them develop projects that can excel at the ACSEF.”

Cottonwood Creek K-8 School, home of the Coyotes. Photo by: Michael Utsumi

OneDublin.org: “In any other conventional year, a school science fair would be conducted with project display boards and assembled in the MPR. In the era of distance learning, take us through the thought process of effectively delivering a virtual science fair that would render a similar experience.

Eman Tai Ahmad: “We wanted the students to be able to share their projects virtually. As such, we felt that having students create slide presentations to document their science experiments or engineering projects was more effective in a virtual environment. Students were asked to create a video in which they presented their slides and talked through their experiment, solution, conclusions, and applications of their efforts. These videos were then shared on a private CCS website.” 

OneDublin.org: You had previously mentioned events that have been successful at CCS – including the Halloween Haunted House – which brings the school community together. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, please explain the importance of maintaining legacy events at your site for the students and their families.

Eman Tai Ahmad: “At a time when connections and human interaction is limited each connection is more meaningful. We felt it was important to provide students and our community with an opportunity to connect share and explore the world around us while keeping alive some of our school traditions. Not every tradition is easily translated to a virtual setting, but the CCS Science Fair was one that lends itself to finding an innovative tech solution.”

OneDublin.org: The safety and vaccine updates continue to be progressively positive. However, we have not been given the clearance to resume in-classroom instruction in the immediate future. As a prominent volunteer leader, what message would you like to convey to your school community?

Eman Tai Ahmad: “We know that there has been a tectonic shift in the way students and families have to imagine education and life. Amongst all this change if we can find positive ways to continue to connect, learn and excel we owe it to ourselves and the students to try.

We know science fair is not everyone’s passion, but we are constantly looking for ways to engage the students in music, art, drama and more. We had a virtual drama production of Fractured Fairytales and have Band, Color Guard, Orchestra as well as guest speakers covering diverse historic and cultural backgrounds as well as monthly book clubs and story time for our youngest Coyotes.

We are constantly looking for ways for our students to connect and feel like they are still part of our CCS family.”

OneDublin.org would like to thank Eman Tai Ahmad for her insights and her dedicated group of volunteers for helping to maintain a sense of normalcy during these uncharacteristically challenging times. We recognize that these passionate and tireless advocates exist at all school sites.

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