Organizing a Science Fair
I can’t say for certain, but it sure sounds like they do education better in Canada. In the USA, school vice principals are frequently ex-gym teachers moving up in the world. Their job is to observe how the school principal (another ex-gym teacher) watches the school secretary do her work in the hope that someday he will move up into that job.
But there is this vice principal in Canada, C. Kirk Taylor, who had published some great info on a web site, which unfortunately has been taken down. It was something he did in 2000 to guide teachers in doing just that – organizing science fairs. Wow, a school vice principal actually doing something other than trying to catch kids lacking hall passes.
This article draws liberally from Taylor’s site.
Taylor lists benefits of science fairs additional to the two mentioned in the first paragraph:
- Developing a sense of pride in accomplishment
- Learning more about the use and application of the Scientific Method, something that can be applied to many disciplines
- Improving research skills
- Developing skills in art, photography, and communications, necessary to preparing a display and presenting it to observers of the display
- Discovering an interest that can be actively pursued beyond the school years
- Having an accomplishment to list on resumes, college applications, or future career opportunities.
Step-by-step, here is one approach to organizing a science competition:
- Form a fair committee, review and divide up tasks.
- Select judges.
- Set competition guidelines, standards, scoring scheme with judges and advisers.
- Reserve a space; set a date; publicize.
- Prepare all forms to be used – judging, etc.
- Help students select a topic appropriate to their age and skill levels. Have them follow these steps based on the Scientific Method:
- Base the experiment idea on a previous observation.
- State the purpose in the form of a research question.
- Do background research of what others have found about the topic.
- State the hypothesis.
- Design a detailed procedure for the controlled experiment.
- Carry out the experiment.
- Record the results.
- Draw conclusions from the results.
- Detail all of the steps of the project; produce a display board and booklet using text and, if possible, graphics. The booklet should include a title page, table of contents, abstract, the problem, the hypothesis, background research, materials used, procedure, results, conclusions, references, acknowledgements. The display board must conform to the guidelines on size and format set by the organizers.
- Rehearse your presentation.
- Have students complete a proposal form in which they list their proposed project and two alternatives, an outline of their first choice and its hypotheses, materials needed, time needed to complete, and reference materials needed.
- Hold the fair; thank the participants; announce the winners; thank the participants again.
Mr. McLaren’s Science Fair Survival Page has more guidelines for setting up a competition, plus a lot of links to other good sites.