Science Fair. You’re probably either smiling or cringing now. This post is to help those smiling stay smiling. I hope those cringing work their way into a straight face.
I’ve blocked past Science Fairs out of my head for the most part. It’s honestly not my favorite event of the year, but it is pretty awesome when you see all of the complete projects and happy kids. The more experience you have and the more ideas you borrow, the more fun it becomes. Here are some bits and pieces I happily remember:
- Teachers had to provide a lot of support to many students for their projects at my campus. I booked the computer lab for several days for students to type their lab reports and pages for their boards.
- The school held a Science Saturday one morning to provide assistance to students and parents.
- I had a lot of basic supplies on hand to give students for their experiments.
- We set deadlines along the way. I stayed on top of them with check-ins.
- We spent one class period on writing testable questions and making sure the experiments were feasible.
- We worked through the Scientific Method many times leading up to the Science Fair (like with iLearn Science, so students were more prepared.
- We provided a grading rubric from the beginning.
I reached out to Facebook fans on The Science Penguin to see what advice teachers have to offer. Here are some of their helpful tips to make your Science Fair successful and memorable!
Plan, plan, plan!! Have a science fair kickoff night for parents (and students) – this will be 8-12 weeks before the projects are due, start advertising for judges (newsletters, flyers, synervoice (automated phone calls), school webpage), get more judges than you’ll need (some always back out at the last minute), have food for the judges, have a coding system in place for projects, have a master list to go off, have a science fair committee to help with different aspects. -Maia Dobson
Start teaching the scientific process at the beginning of the year. Every science unit has at least one experiment using the process. Then it is easy to scaffold up to the science fair. The other thing we like to do is have due dates for each part of the project. We give grades and feedback for each part. Example – question due on Jan. 19 – 10 points. Lastly, you just have to accept that one or two kids will procrastinate and rejoice that the majority didn’t. -Glenda Ruff
We have just been trying to teach the kids about scientific method and get them invested by doing lots of hands on stuff. We gave a rubric and had prizes for visiting classes who engaged in presentations and asked scientific questions, as well as rewarding participants. We went from very few in years past to over 60 projects! -Teri SB
Start 2 months in advance with due dates/deadlines that require parent signatures. As a middle school teacher I suggest projects with controls and two experimental variables….NOT demonstrations. We also asked students to videotape their presentation and review and retake. It was amazing! This year we also created a scoring tool for judges where they didn’t have to total. Their scores were automatically totaled and sent to a spreadsheet. Provide lunch to the judges for all of their hard work! -Debbie Vance
I teach 5th. The parent information meeting very important and start getting judges and more judges. Have check point deadlines for students to help them stay on track. For example by the end of the week we go back (next week) the students should know what project they are doing. They need to tell me the problem/purpose/question. I then give approval or help them as needed. -Jennifer McCord
A big part is to determine the SCOPE….Class, school, group of schools, will it be optional, what grades, individual or group projects, etc. THEN, be prepared with your procedures and rules, set specific dates for progress checking, have access to extra projects for those who may need assistance, decide EARLY on whether LIVE animals will be permitted, if there will be judges… decide how many and who, will there be prizes given… -Sandy Capitena
We turned our Science Fair into a STEM Fair at our school. It’s been a huge success. Besides projects, we have math games, science and engineering challenges out for all grade levels to participate in, mostly run by our High School BETA club volunteers. It is by far the best turn out for families for an after school event for us. We also get great donations from our business partners for door prizes. In terms of projects, there are several “check points” that the participants need to meet to keep them on track for completing their project. -Alicia Broughton
We use two file folders to make a mini trifold for the school fair. The mini projects are less intimidating to make, easier to collect in the classroom, and much more manageable to set up for the fair. The students who advance to the district fair then create the larger trifold version of their project. Also, we use the district’s scoring Rubric for the campus fair- it gives us a good preview of what to expect and the students are able to fix any errors before advancing based on their scores on campus. (I have taught 5th and 8th science for the past 8 years.) -Celeste Bernal Garza
At my at-risk school, kids had little or no help at home. We ended up turning our science fair into a motion fair where teams worked together to build roller coasters. We also had other individual motion projects available, like building mini- hovercrafts. That way they learned the science (coincided with laws of motion study) and they could apply it. There was also the opportunity to do a motion project on their own, if they wanted. That would have to be done at home. Everything else was at school. -Pamela Kranz
When I did them, I allowed students to work either alone, with their family, or with a buddy…some families did everything despite it–so I embraced it and called it a “family project”! We talked a lot about what parts adults might do and what kids might do…keepin’ it real. -Meg Anderson
I always do a lunch time club for those with no support. They all do the same project, but get to complete their project. There are a lot of the same project during the fair, but the next year, they are more likely to be able to do their own. – Debbie Romig
Pace the kids! Drives me nuts when people send home a ton of stuff to do and a deadline. There should be mini-due dates to pace kids. Model brainstorming scientific questions that you’re interested in, and then set a due date for kids to decide on their own. Check them to make sure they will be experiments, not models, and then move to the next step. Doing a class science fair project as a model is so helpful. I used to have an after-school club for kids to research using the computers if they didn’t have anything at home. -Chrissy Beltran Ceniceros
I always had a few after school sessions where kids could get help finding a project, or even completing it if they didn’t have an adult available to help them at home. It really cut down on the number of kids without a project on the day of the fair. -Nichole Carney Falkowski
Help the students form meaningful questions – not pop-bottle chemical reactions. I have judged many science fairs, and am dismayed by the lack of curiosity students exhibit for the world around them – especially the natural world. Something about neighborhood or schoolyard bird visitations as related to landscaping and/or feeder options; observing how light and shadow affect color changes — anything that helps students see that the Scientific Method’s steps are simply steps you use to answer a question, and help them link that to the natural world. -Susan Snyder
Give all of the information up front! Help the kiddos PLAN….what should they be working on each week! Kids don’t know how to break down projects…that is part of our job especially in Upper Elementary grades to teach them that process! -Carmen Zeisler