Science Fair Discussion Starters


Discussion Starters - Educational Innovations NewsletterWhy are science fairs important?  What makes the science fair process valuable?  It’s an excellent question and a good way to start a class discussion about this time-honored tradition.  First and foremost, why DO we ask our students to work on a science fair project year after year?   The answer, in a nutshell, is to help them learn how to think like scientists.  Scientists find answers to questions that interest them.  In other words, your students simply need to ask themselves, What do I want to know more about?

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All about Science Fair Judging


By Dr. Maille Lyons

Judges are the “referees” in the sport of science fair. As with most refereed sports, the losing teams will often blame the referees for failure and, in some cases that is accurate.  In other cases you just got beat.

Since there is no appeal process, no coach’s challenge, and no instant replay for review, the science fair judges’ decisions stand (and will not be explained no matter how much you beg…). SO KNOWING THAT, your project must be well executed and well communicated so that the “bad calls” are minimized.

Student tips for judging:

•   Greet your judges—stand up, look at them, shake their hand, and say, “It is nice to meet you, my name is…”

•   Be able to summarize your project in two minutes, but also have a longer, more detailed presentation ready in case the judge doesn’t have any immediate questions or time constraints.

•   Highlight the creative or unexpected aspects of your science fair project.  If you encountered any problems along the way that you had to solve, describe that process!  Judges love the problem-solving aspects because it shows you did some thinking (as opposed to just following directions from a project).

•   Tell the judges what you learned in a story format.

•   Understand why your project is important.

•   Show enthusiasm and knowledge.

•   Dress neatly.  The impression you leave on a judge is critical when they then advocate for your project in the judging room.  No gum chewing!

•   If you don’t know the answer, it is okay to say “I don’t know,” but think first:  is it that you don’t know the answer, or don’t understand the question?  Don’t be afraid to say “I’m not sure what you are asking, could you re-phrase it?  or “That is an interesting idea, I hadn’t considered that.”

•   Know what you would do next (i.e., what is one logical next experiment?) because it demonstrates you fully understood the scientific method and your project.

•   If the judge recommends an improvement, say “Thank you” and acknowledge it as a good idea.

Ten science fair questions students should be prepared to answer:

 1.   Where did you get the idea for this project?

2.   What did you learn?

3.   Why are your findings (i.e. results/data/conclusion) important?

4.   What was your control (i.e. why is that a control for the independent variable)?

5.   Why did you pick that hypothesis (i.e. why did you think that would happen)?

6.   Who helped you?

7.   What would be an example of the next logical experiment (i.e. what would you do next)?

8.   If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

9.   What were the hardest/easiest/most challenging/most fun /most exciting/ most unexpected (etc.) parts of the project?

10.   Did anything surprise you along the way and why (i.e. how did you overcome that problem)?

Remember that there is a component of judging that is intangible and unpredictable.  It is based on the random allocation of projects into rooms or groups. In the ideal situation, all judges would review all projects and all come to one agreement.  This is not going to happen because of time constraints.  Consequently, your impression on whatever judges you are randomly assigned is critical.

More tips for students:

•   You need to study your project.  You are responsible for every word on your backboard and every concept related to every word on your back board.

•  Chances are you did the project a considerable time before the actual judging (especially at the higher levels); go back and re-read the log book and your research paper.

•   You need to show enthusiasm and knowledge TOGETHER.

•   One judge can make a difference—so treat EVERYONE who stops by your project with the utmost respect.

•   Depending on your project, you could win while wearing ripped jeans or you could lose while wearing dress clothes BUT remember that the impression you make on the judge is critical and your appearance will factor into that, even if it is ever so slight.  So if you hate dressing up—find the least dressy thing that you will not be fidgeting in and put in on for a few hours.

•   HAVE FUN!!

 For more on science fairs, check out our Science Fair Newsletter, our Science Fair Discussion Starters and teachers’ reviews of some of our best Science Fair products.

Dr. Maille Lyons is an environmental microbiologist who is also known as “The Science Fair Coach.”  Her website provides science fair preparation tips for teachers, parents, science coaches, and students.

 

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You Said It! Science Fair Product Reviews


You Said It! Product Reviews - Educational Innovations NewsletterA science fair project is made of researching, planning, experimenting, analyzing… and of course, choosing the right materials!  That’s where Educational Innovations comes in.  We specialize in materials that really bring science to life—uniquely memorable, phenomenon-based products.  Whether your students want to perform science fair experiments on density, thermodynamics, ultraviolet light, electricity or anything else, we are your resource.

If you have a favorite science fair experiment or product, please let us know in the comments section below!

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Join Our Elementary Science Club Today!


Tami O'Connorby Tami G. O’Connor

As elementary school teachers, we aim to help our students become scientifically literate (among many other things).  But let’s face it:  too often we have limited time for science instruction during the school day.  Still, we know that kids just love science!  They’re always eager to learn more about the world around them, especially when they’re having fun while they’re learning.

But what can we do when our science teaching time is so limited in school?  How do you get students involved in scientific discovery outside the classroom?  Sure, you can give them homework, but many kids find simply reading about science unappealing.  You want your students to LOVE learning more about science… not dread it.

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What Does It Take to Be an Engineer?


What Does It Take to Be an Engineer? - Educational Innovations BlogBy Cathy Byrne

This is one of my favorite team-building, icebreaker activities.  It’s also a great way to introduce your students to engineering!  It can be done with students at many different grade levels.  At the beginning of class, I start by welcoming my students to the staff of [Insert-the-name-of-your-school-here] Engineering Company.

I split the class into small groups and tell them: your team has been tasked with constructing the tallest free-standing tower you can build with the materials provided.  I give each team a bag containing 20 pipe cleaners and I let them dive right in.  It doesn’t take long for the teams to figure out that they need a strong base to hold the flimsy pipe cleaners.

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