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Parent Letter

Dear Students & Parents,

Let us begin by saying that we are all very fortunate teachers to have the opportunity to be at SSA teaching our students.  Our students are remarkably inquisitive, motivated, responsible, passionate, organized, and dedicated.   Such students make this job more like a hobby than work.  It is our goal that your student will see his or her science education also as fun, rather than a choir.  This is the intent of a science research project -- To provide an opportunity for your child to enjoy doing science.

As you are well aware, Sonoran Science Academy is exactly that: a science academy.  We hope that is why you chose to send your student here.  Here at SSA, we are proud to offer students the opportunity and support to explore their own science research questions and compete academically.  Current education research strongly supports student-centered pedagogy that engages students, allows them to inquire about their world, explore their world, and come up with explanations for what they observe.  An old Chinese proverb states, “You tell me, I’ll forget, you show me, I may remember, you have me do it, I’ll understand”. What better way to learn science than to do science?  The closest experience that your student can ever get to learning science is by doing a science fair project.

For this reason, it is mandatory for all students starting at 3rd grade to complete a science fair project.  Qualifying projects will be judged at the school fair to represent SSA at the Southern Arizona Regional Science and Engineering Fair (SARSEF).  Many other students will be selected to attend the Arizona State Science Fair (AzSEF) and perhaps get invited to other national science fair competitions.  In just the past 2 years, four 8th grade students were selected from SSA to be student observers at the Intel ISEF, and last year, a freshman was selected as an ISEF Finalist who ended up winning 4th place in the world.  These achievements help our students get into the top colleges and also receive top scholarships.  We are hoping to support the next generation of SSA to reach their goals.

Students are strongly encouraged to discuss their projects with experts in their field of interest.  Some high level projects may require a mentor.  According to the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), “The student researcher is responsible for all aspects of the research project including enlisting any needed supervisory adults, obtaining necessary approvals, following Rules and Guidelines of the ISEF, and doing the experimentation, engineering, data analysis, etc involved in the projects”.  Experts and mentors can assist students in the design and implementation of the experimentation.

Some students may want to do a project that imposes hazards.  According to the ISEF rules, preliminary documentation is required to ensure the safety of the students and others.  Students who are considering projects that involve vertebrate animals, potentially hazardous biological agents, human subjects, controlled substances and/or hazardous devices and substances will be required to submit Scientific Research Committee (SRC) forms to SARSEF SRC board.  These forms can be found on SARSEF’s website (

For parents with MS students, we ask that you encourage your child and monitor his or her progress along the way. Look at the due dates and descriptions for each part of the project given to the student by their teacher; it is important to turn in the work on time to ensure that your student can receive helpful feedback before they finalize each part of their project. Students often want to work in pairs.  Consult your child’s science teacher to see if their course allows this.

More information will be given to students throughout the semester.  Each family will also have access to the information via their science teacher’s website and through the International Science and Engineering Fair’s website (

We look forward to watching your child enjoy this unique opportunity for scientific discovery!  We hope to see you at when we display projects to the public at Discovery Night on February 12th, 2011.


The Science Department