Category Archives: Science Fair Secrets

Students, parents and teachers share their winning science fair project ideas, stories and awards.

Kindergarteners Banned from Science Fair? What is the Right Age to Participate?

Contributed by Susan Wells
Blog Editor – Steve Spangler Science

What age should children begin participating in science fair? Should science fairs be judged? How much involvement should parents have in their child’s project? These are questions that are debated every year during science fair season.

I recently read a mother’s frustrated rant about her child’s school and how they ran their science fair this year. She said older children in grades 4-5 received 1st, 2nd and 3rd place trophies, while children in the 2nd and 3rd grades only received first place trophies. The kinder and 1st graders only had first place winners, but did not receive trophies. At the awards ceremonies, all the winners stood together, and a third place 5th grader received a trophy next to a first place kindergartener with the prize of only recognition. I won’t go into what is wrong with this – I think it’s obvious.

When she asked why the younger ones weren’t as strongly recognized, she was told that only the upper grades should be allowed to participate and kindergarteners should “just be glad they are allowed to do a project.” It was also explained that kindergarteners do not understand what a hypothesis is, so they can’t do a project as independently as the older kids.

If kindergarteners aren’t allowed to participate, then how will they learn about the scientific method and be able to form hypothesis? Aren’t you stifling their ability to learn by deciding what they are and are not capable of doing? Kindergarten is the best environment to encourage lifelong learning, thinking outside the box and exploring. Five and six year olds are extremely creative and excited to make discoveries. If we wait until they are 10 or 11 years old to start encouraging learning, aren’t we failing our children?

Yes, a kindergartener will need some extra help and guidance in putting their science fair project together. But the next year as a first grader, they will be able to work a little more independently and so on each year.

All children who participate in science fair should be applauded and recognized, regardless of age or grade. I think this school and organizer completely missed the mark with their science fair.

While I am on my science soap box, I believe science fair should not be judged. At my sons’ school, participation is encouraged, and not judged. In each grade, starting in kindergarten, the students work on a class science fair project. This teaches them how to conduct an experiment and present it as a project. Each year, the experiments become more challenging and the expectations raised.

The focus of science fair is asking questions, learning and finding the answers to your questions through exploration. Science fairs that are judged encourage a deeper parental involvement because of the competitive aspect. The focus is on a winning project, the best looking board and the most professional appearance. The true focus is lost. Children should have parental support and guidance, but should do the work and make the discoveries for themselves. Education is not a competition – it’s a lifelong dedication.

With that, how does your school handle science fair? Is it judged? Is it open to all grades? Is it voluntary or mandatory?

Science Fair Planning and Creative Ideas

By Guest Blogger: Karen Bantuveris, VolunteerSpot

Mad Science Meets Crazy Easy Student Science Fair Planning

Building extravagant dioramas and goo filled volcano models is only half the battle for creating a successful science fair. There’s a lot of work that goes into coordinating and planning this staple of elementary school life, and this post is dedicated to making it an easily navigable event for kids, parents and teachers.

Putting on a science fair can seem like quite the impossible task for both teachers and parent volunteers alike, but with advanced planning, a little creativity and a lot of enthusiasm, a science fair can be a whole bunch of fun for everyone involved.

Planning and Promoting

  • Decide where and when the science fair will be held, and when the deadline for the projects will be.  The cafeteria and the gym both provide open space where tables can be set up and people can easily walk around. Open the fair during the school day and encourage teachers from non-participating classes to bring their students!
  • Help students come up with topics, talk to your science teachers and find local research universities. Put together a giant list of science fair projects. A resource like Steve Spangler Science is perfect because there are oodles of ideas, and even better, there are hard to come by supplies!
  • Get the kids excited by offering creative awards for the projects deemed: messiest, stinkiest, loudest, smallest, biggest… get the kids thinking outside the ‘normal’ same old projects!

Volunteers

A large event like this needs a lot of support, from parents, kids and teachers. Make sure to get everyone on board a few weeks ahead of time using online signup sheets; busy schedules can fill up super-fast! Have parent helpers come for one-hour shifts during the day, and stagger set up times for the kids so there isn’t mass chaos as everyone tries to set up their projects at the same time.

You may also opt to have outside judges from the community – be sure to ask people from several scientific areas: engineers, doctors, and fish and game specialists. Ask around to see if any school parents fit the bill. Once invited, add them to your VolunteerSpot.com FREE Sign up reminder system.

Event Extras

  • Keep repair items on hand, just in case someone needs a last minute piece of duct tape, or a touchup with a Sharpie.
  • If the kids are presenting their projects to the judges, keep a detailed schedule of who’s going when and who will be judging who.
  • Take this opportunity to add a lesson plan on public speaking for the students that will be presenting their project to the judges.
  • Once the science fair is finished, have volunteers and judges fill out an evaluation form that outlines their feelings on the successfulness of the event, to help make the next year even more successful.

Prizing

The last thing to consider is how many prizes, what kind of prizes and what guidelines there will be for prizes handed out. Will there be an award for everyone who participates? Or will you have the traditional gold, silver and bronze awards? Will prizes be based on grade level, but have an overall winner for the school? What does a successful science fair mean for your school?

Here’s to an exciting and super successful science fair!

About the author:

Karen Bantuveris is the founder & CEO of VolunteerSpot, a time and sanity-saving online coordination tool that empowers busy parents, teachers and grassroots community leaders by making it easier get involved. VolunteerSpot’s free online sign up sheets are perfect for organizing a school or community science fair. Karen is passionate about increasing parent participation in schools and lives in Austin, TX with her husband and daughter.

Parents – Don't Fear the Science Fair

Tri Fold

It’s that time of year again. Snow is melting, temperatures are starting to rise a bit and your child has to work on a science fair project.

The dreaded science fair project.

The goal of the science fair is to teach the scientific method and give students insight into how to theorize, set up, perform and draw conclusions from an experiment. But it’s so much more than just boring science steps. It gets kids excited about independent learning, reaching, researching and discovering. This isn’t something you read about in a text book, it’s something you create, build and find your own answers. Creativity also helps in building a science fair project board – they are works of art!

Students also learn public speaking skills during the fair when presenting their project and discussing it with fair visitors.

And through all of this hard work, speaking, creating, testing and concluding, the kids build self-confidence and pride in their work. My favorite part of the science fair is walking around and seeing the pride and joy on all of the kids’ faces. Now, how can that be dreaded?

A friend of mine told me that she fears the science fair so much, that she throws the signup sheet out quickly before her kids see it and get any ideas. I’ve heard from other parents that they would lov

e to have their kids participate, but have no good idea where to start.

What are we teaching our kids if we are so fearful of the science fair that we won’t give them a chance at it? Information is power and that is true for the science fair. By knowing a few simple steps, you can help guide your child through an amazing journey through science.

The science fair project is a series of steps to reach a conclusion -

  1. Ask a Question
    The question doesn’t have to be something to make Newton scratch his chin. It can be anything that interests you.
  2. Research
    Gather information about the question you want to explore. Ask your science teacher and librarian for tips on how to find detailed information for your project.
  3. Hypothesis – Take a Guess
    Based on the research you have gathered, take an educated guess and write an “I think” statement. What do you think will happen?
  4. Materials
    What will you need to find the answer to your question? Determining your variables will tell you what materials you will need. A variable is what changes from one experiment to another. You will draw conclusions from experimenting with different variables. If you don’t have at least one variable, you don’t have a true science experiment.
  5. Procedure – Conduct Your Experiment
    This is the part where you perform your experiment and run your tests.
  6. Observations and Conclusion
    Provide a written description of what you discovered from your experiment. Was your hypothesis correct or incorrect? This is where you summarize the results of your experiment and compare the results to your original guess, and remember… it’s okay if your hypothesis was wrong. That is all part of the scientific process.
  7. Data – Science Fair Board
    Log and display your information on a science fair board. Most craft stores sell them or Google “science fair project board” to find one online.  Organize your project board by the steps you followed – Question, Research, Hypothesis, Materials, Procedures, Data, Observations and Conclusion.

For science fair project ideas, additional help with your project and supplies, visit us at SteveSpanglerScience.com.

Guest Blogger Susan Wells is a mom of two girls, ages 5 and 9. She organizes the Science Fair at her daughter’s elementary school and loves to bring science into their lives in and outside of the classroom. Susan does social media, blogging, blogger outreach and web marketing for Steve Spangler Science.

Tips to Make Your Science Fair Project More Meaningful

It’s science fair time for many schools across the country. If you’re a parent of a young scientist who is turning your kitchen into a laboratory, and you’re overwhelmed, here are some ways to make the project more meaningful. Participating in the school science fair is a fantastic opportunity to uncover the power of the scientific method. You’ll ask new questions, discover new science facts, conduct experiments that lead you to ask new questions and make new discoveries, and ultimately gain a new understanding of how science works. The best part is making the mini discoveries on your way to un-covering a conclusion. Watch the video to learn how to take the most popular science fair demonstration, the baking soda and vinegar volcano and turn it into a real science fair project.

For more help in finding a science fair project or getting science fair project ideas, how to put together a science fair board and lots of tips and ideas, check out our Science Fair Project section >

How Roxborough Elementary Encourages Participation in the Science Fair

With strong parent support and amazing teachers to encourage a love for science, Roxborough Elementary is celebrating the largest participation in their Science fair this year.

Science fair can be a daunting event for both students and their parents. But participating in science fair doesn’t have to be scary. All it takes is a question to get started.  It can be a simple question like “Which diaper absorbs the most liquid?” or “Which gum flavor lasts the longest?” After you ask a question, run a series of tests to answer your question. Sometimes, you won’t find a clear answer.

Roxborough Elementary takes advantage of the scientists in their community from Lockheed Martin. Community members are invited to help judge science fair projects. They don’t let their participants struggle on their own. They give each participant a packet of information on how to put their project together for the fair. Roxborough is sharing their packets with our parents and teachers to help them communicate with their participants and complete their projects.

If you are looking for a science fair project, check out our Science Fair library.