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How to prepare for a successful science fair project experience

Posted by on July 7, 2012

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It’s never too early to start planning for a science fair project. Here is a quick checklist so that you, as a mentor/parent, will know you have all the parts and can complete the project efficiently and successfully:

First, keep in mind the basic FORMULA FOR SUCCESS:

Scientific method (45%) + Creative idea (45%) + Random intangibles (10%) = SUCCESS!

Accordingly, the project must apply the principles of the scientific method to a creative idea to be successful. The last 10% (random intangibles) come into play at higher levels of judging and competition and are impossible to predict. So – don’t worry about them – focus on the first two parts, since they are worth more.

Next, review the BASIC GAME PLAN:

BEFORE the project, you (as the parent/mentor) should…

1. determine what type of student you have
2. get the proper equipment (starting with a notebook, later you will need a backboard)
3. learn/review the scientific method (see tab on home page)
4. learn the general rules (see tab on fatal flaws – know these ahead so you don’t start down the wrong path)
5. complete the practice experiment (skip if it’s the night or weekend before the project is due)
6. help student find a creative idea

DURING the project, you should…

1. be ready to ask the right questions (see tab on judging tips)
2. pace the project by setting realistic milestones/deadlines
3. help prepare them for grading/judging

Finally, remember that the scientific method is the framework by which we teach science. It will be important for you child’s project to have its basic parts including: question, hypothesis, experiment with controls, dependent and independent variables, data analysis, conclusion.

Good Luck!

2 Responses to How to prepare for a successful science fair project experience

  1. regina

    I am going to run a science fair at my school for the first time. I’m excited but I need some help getting started.
    Would you be able to help me find resources to organize an elementary school science fair?


    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      Good Luck! They are a lot of work – but can be both fun and rewarding. Here are some things to think about:

      FIRST – figure out the deadlines
      –Is it just for the school or will some kids be able to compete at a higher level afterwards? If the latter, make sure you hold the event in advance of deadlines for other competitions. Many higher level competitions are in the late winter (Jan/Feb).
      –What grades will be participating – and how many students from each grade can enter the higher level competions?
      –Will the number of students that can compete at higher levels be determined by grade level or by topic? FYI: the typical categories are: life sciences, physical sciences, environmental sciences, and technology/engineering

      –How much assistance will the student/parent be given? Is there a prepared set of instructions? Have the students covered scientific method or are you also in charge of teaching them how to do a science fair project? There is a lot of information on this website you can use for that purpose.
      –What will be required of the student? Project board, research notebook, oral presentation, written report, or some combination of those? This will all depend on the level of the students.

      –Where will the kids be able to display their project boards? Generally cafeteria is best because it has tables, but a gym could also work. Parents will want an opportunity to walk around and see all the different projects and kids should be given the opportunity to tell people about what they did.
      –Will there be judging? Who will judge? Look for teachers from nearby schools or college students at a nearby institution.
      –Will there be awards? Are there businesses in the community that might supply prizes?
      –Depending on the age, it is OK not to formally judge or to just identify the top ten in lieu of ranking 1, 2, 3, etc.

      Again -good Luck – and post any questions here. I will try to answer them as they come up.

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