You CAN Run a Science Fair!

Science Fair Image Well yes I have done it… and with very little help and I would do it again! Who doesn’t love a science fair?!  Why do we do science fairs and why do we love them? It is a great way for students to showcase what your kids can do. It also helps reinforce all the researching skills and procedures you have taught your kids though out the year, while exposing them to using the scientific process in a real world setting.  My most favorite thing of all is having my students pick something that they are passionate about learning and watching them wholeheartedly commit to their learning! I have recently began to call it a “science symposium” because we didn’t have judges and wanted it to be more of a sharing of knowledge not a competition. So what does it take to do this at your school? Here are some tips from the 3 times I have had to run my own science fair at 2 different schools.

Plan Plan Plan!

Your Science fair is just like any long-term project. While it is a pain to manage them in the classroom, if you plan everything before you even begin you will be surprised how easy it is to pull this off. I use this checklist every year to get my planning going. Obviously, every school is different and will need different things but I thought it would be great to share my list. Symposium Checklist. I always first inform the parents so that they know what will be expected of their children, and that it is a group project. Parents like to know this so they can expect out of school meet ups with their child’s group members. I also invite the parents so this gives them an opportunity to get it on their calendars. I left the students choose their topics. I have done themes for the projects, like one year my entire 6th grade did a project involving a plant. Some years it is a do what ever you are interested in. I try to be very hands off in this stage really giving the ownership to the students, which can be hard to do but it really adds to the quality of the project and their learning. I guide them through their research and their investigations and help them understand data when needed. Again, I am very hands off I have taught them all they need to know and really this is their moment to shine. My students are required to write a lab report for their work and I use a checklist rubric so they know exactly what is expected. They also get a clear description of what their tri-fold posters should have as well as a poster present rubric. Lab Report Rubric   Presentation & Poster Rubric

Keep Students Accountable!

The first time I ran a science fair I had a lot of students who flew under the radar. You know the kid, the one who does 2 things for the entire project and passes it off as their work with the star science student, then collects that A+ grade. It is just is not fair, so  myself and some other colleges came up with sone ideas to help.

  1. Responsibly sheet – Break up parts of the project into chunks, Materials, Lab report sections,  Who is buying the poster? and have members of the group sign up BEFORE they actually begin. I keep copies of these so when a part of project is missing or not done to standard i know jut who i have to have “that” conversation with or who I have to email or locate during lunch, in the hall way or whenever ( you know how it is sometimes) to get them to fix it! This keeps the students honest and able to say when they let the group down. For our overly involved parents they can also see what their kid needs to work on (or didn’t work on).
  2. Tracking Progress – I track everything during this project in a google spreadsheet that is shred with the students. For each item that is needed they have to log in and fill in when it is done. They also can all see each other work, so if groups are studying similar projects they can collaborate.
  3. Class Check-ins – Each week I have a “work in class” day ( frequency depends on how close it is to the end date of project) I share these dates on my weekly announcements so students can prepare in advance. I check in with each group, to see where they are progressing and when they need my help. I take very short notes so that I can keep up with their work, yes in a spreadsheet, can you tell i love these. This by the way is a great resource for comment and report car writing!
  4. Checklist Rubric – Just a smart way to make sure everyone knows exactly what they need to do! see above.
  5. Group member evaluation – A part of their final grade (10%) involves the grade they get from their peers. I have them do two evaluations one in middle of project one at the end on each member of their group and themselves. I find this to be important, because they again hold each other accountable.

This is by no means a comprehensive guide to doing that science fair you have always wanted to do, but I do think this will get you started. Every school is different and value different things, but with lots of planning you can be a great success at your science fair.  But if you need a pep talk email me I will be happy to get you going!

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