This is an excerpt from my unpublished Science Fair Coaching Manual, which I affectionately call: “How to win the 5th grade science fair at 40”
The first you thing you need to know is that a science fair project is different from a school report on a special topic like dolphins, rocks or global warming. It is also different from making a model such as a volcano or solar system. A science fair project involves conducting an experiment to answer a question or solve a problem. As the student’s coach, you will need to guide the student toward developing a project that includes an experiment.
Whether you like it or not, the science fair has become like a competitive sport where the measure of success is winning. Similar to the all-too-common situation where the “coach’s kid” always gets to pitch (or start, or quarterback, or take the penalty kick, or some other favored task), it is usually the “scientist’s kid” or the “teacher’s kid” that wins the school science fair. Sometimes it is favoritism, but more often it is because those kids knew HOW to do a project correctly (i.e., they were better coached!).
This website is designed to help parents, teachers, and other mentors (that are not scientists) become better science coaches for their students. Although the information targets 3rd through 8th grade students, the details will be useful for all first time participants (i.e., “the rookies”) regardless of grade level. It will also help those that don’t want, or need, to win the science fair, but rather just desperately need the A grade or extra credit in science class.
Formula for Success:
Scientific method (45%) + Creative idea (45%) + Random intangibles (10%) = SUCCESS!
Basic Game Plan:
BEFORE the project, you should…
1. determine what type of student you are coaching
2. get the proper equipment (starting with a notebook)
3. learn/review the scientific method (see tab on home page)
4. learn the general rules (see tab on fatal flaws)
5. complete the practice experiment
6. help student find a creative idea
DURING the project, you should…
1. ask the right questions (see tab on judging tips)
2. pace the project
3. help prepare them for grading/judging