You Can Run a Science Fair – Online Tools and Resources

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fair5By upper elementary, most students have had the experience of working though a science fair project. Learning the basics of the scientific method and following a plan of research are essential skills that students must take from their science education experience. By the middle grades, many school science fairs take a turn for the more serious and competitive. At the secondary level, the science fair becomes a rigorous competition where students apply the basics of science inquiry to a higher and more stimulating level.

Often teachers forego hosting a science fair event at their school due to lack of supportive material, ideas, and resources. While Mathematics and English Language Skills seem to dominate the academic drive across K-12, the science and technology standards provide the foundation for an intensive and impressive set of lessons and projects when educators utilize them.  Add to that the ever-increasing presence of online science fair support  programs, teachers will find that planning and running a science fair project is in fact very ‘do’-able.

Your science fair will be unique based on the level of students, setting of school, and availability of space and time. Consider these factors first. Then start with some of these introductory sites to help you plan how you will implement an effective and successful science project competition. As you review these guidelines, keep a running list of ideas, tips, and concerns.

  • Discovery Education’s Science Fair CentralStep 1 takes you through the basics; jot down ideas and notes. The list of links at the left covers the primary initial components. Continue with Step 2.  This will assist you when you are ready to implement the process with students. Step 3 covers the actual presentation component of the project. Use the Coordinating a Science Fair resource
  • Print out the Science Fair Guide Resource for Teachers (Holt, Rinehart and Winston). This plan breaks the science fair down into a series of phases that you can easily follow. Suggested timelines and a tool to develop your own timeline as well as evaluation suggestions are included.
  • The Science Project Encyclopedia (developed by the Florida Foundation for Future Scientists) is a unique site in that it is almost as if you are having a conversation with an expert on science fairs. The flow of the resource is conversational and by clicking on the prompts, you will find excellent anecdotal explanations and useful methods and directions.
  • Hand out thekid-friendly Science Fair Project Resource Guide (Drexel, College of Information Science and Technology and the College of Information at Florida State University) to students and use this as a shared guide during the process. Not only a guide, it also consists of numerous links to specific sites where students can get additional support.
  • Keep the Project Guide from Science Buddies on hand to quickly print out any aspect of the project that students may need additional help with. This is another fabulous resource that is both helpful for teachers and handy for students.

Often the most challenging aspect of the project is helping students to devise a topic. Point out these resources for suggestions:

For help with rubrics check these resources:

If this is your first science fair effort, stay flexible. With any big project, there may be surprises and aspects that do not work out as originally planned. Keep track of thoughts and observations to apply towards future events. Students will have a project that they are not only proud of, but can share with others and reap the benefit of feedback in a fun, social environment.

For students who not only competed but excelled with the science fair experience, encourage and help them to continue their efforts by entering some of the national and even international science-based events. Let’s start with the biggest first: The Google Science Fair. Sponsored by Google, Lego, CERN, National Geographic and Scientific American, this winter will mark the third year that this opportunity has been in existence. This online science program is motivating and exciting in a way that no other science fair has proven to be.

Over 1,000 students from more than 100 nations participated in the Google Science Fair in 2012. Projects are judged based on eight categories: presentation, question, hypothesis, research, experiment, data, observations, and conclusion. Watch the Google Science Fair 2012 Finalist Gala for an overview of this worldwide science fair event.

(Note: The Google Science Fair is only open to students age 13 and over. The nature of the competition is on the Internet and due to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA), children under the age of 13 cannot enter private information online.)

There are additional excellent online/virtual science fairs. Consider the Broadcom MASTERS competition (sponsored by the Society for Science & the Public), the National Association of Independent Schools Virtual Science Fair, Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Check for your own county-wide and/or state-wide science competitions. Many states and larger cities host their own science project event such as the State Science & Engineering Fair of Florida, the New York City Science and Engineering Fair, the California State Science Fair, the Chicago Public Schools Student Science Fair, the  Massachusetts State Science and Engineering Fair, and the Georgia Science and Engineering Fair just name a few. Check out this resource for a listing of 40 state science fairs (scroll down).

Science fairs are not all the same and in fact, variety is what makes them so fascinating. Go ahead – plan a science competition. If this is your first year, start with a basic plan and just get students involved in the scientific process of working with their own experiment/exploration. Anything that they display will be rewarding and exciting. As you conduct more fairs, you will be able to fine tune and enhance based on your students and school needs. Remember you do not need to host an official event; if time is tight then pull out the digital camera and take snapshots of each project and post them online for parents. Or use a video camera to film each student present their project and share them on the school Web site (make sure to check school policy on posting students on the Web). Science fairs are an opportunity for students to make learning science personal; they will enjoy the opportunity to learn and share with each other.

Stephanie Tannenbaum


Science Fair Central – Discovery Education

Science Fair Guide Resource for Teachers - Holt, Rinehart and Winston

Science Project Encyclopedia –Florida Foundation for Future Scientists

Science Fair Project Resource Guide -Drexel, College of Information Science and Technology and the College of Information at Florida State University

Science Fair Project Guide – Science Buddies

Ultimate Science Fair Project Resource – Super Science Fair Support Center

Science Project Topics – Online University

Science Fair Project Ideas –

Science Fair Ideas – Science Bob

Science Fair Adventure

Broadcom MASTERS - Society for Science & the Public

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