I used to have my students present posters at the end of a nine-week research project, but I wanted to find a way to revisit this more intensely for each and every lab. John Jungck at Beloit College has his students prepare a full poster for every lab but I feel that this is too much for high school. To adapt we scaled things down a bit. First: The 'poster board' is two file folders glued together to create a mini 'science fair' backboard template. Second: Headings (with instructions for what should be included in each section) are glued permanently to the miniposter. Third: While they are completing the lab and afterwards, each lab group prepares their miniposter using Post-it notes of various sizes, small computer graphics, and art rendered by students (colored pencils are provided). Each member of the team usually takes responsibility for specific sections. The Post-its fit in each section. If the students want to include graphics or printed graphs, they cut these out and glue them to a small Post-it. This allows for some serious creativity in the presentation. The Post-its allow the miniposter to be revised several times and to be used over for each lab. Generally, this takes very little class time after they are familiar with the process. Fourth: The presentation. Just like a regular poster session the students then move about through the room and evaluate one another's posters using a score sheet tied to a rubric. They ask questions, answer questions, and interact. Each person has to evaluate at least three or four other posters (they are awarded points on their evaluations). One member of the team has to answer questions about their poster. Fifth: Reflection. The students can now incorporate changes to their poster that they feel will make their presentation stronger in response to student criticism. Since the time and effort invested is modular (per section) and only on Post-its, the students are usually eager to revise their posters before I get to them. By this time there is not much for me to grade—they are usually excellent so it takes very little of my time. If I schedule 45 minutes for presentation, revision, and final grading, it is usually enough time.
Avoid slipping into clichés or generalities. Take this opportunity to really examine an experience that taught you something you didn't previously know about yourself, got you out of your comfort zone, or forced you to grow. Sometimes it's better to write about something that was hard for you because you learned something than it is to write about something that was easy for you because you think it sounds admirable. As with all essay questions, the most important thing is to tell a great story: how you discovered this activity, what drew you to it, and what it's shown you about yourself.