5 Tips to Survive Science Fair

The Science Fair usually brings a mix of emotions. Students love the hands-on learning but for teachers, the Science Fair can be nightmare. What project(s) should the class do? How can I organize students’ work samples? How do I involve parents?  Use these 5 tried-and-true tips to survive the Science Fair.

PicMonkey Collage1. Select experiment: Since my students are required to learn the life cycle process, I bought caterpillar and tadpoles for them to study. I also picked a variety of leveled text on butterflies and frogs to use during my guided reading groups to make it a cross-curricular project.  It may to tempting to choose an experiment that just seems fun and interesting, but always be sure that it aligns to your grade level standards and curriculum.  This helps to extend learning and create a richer learning experience.

ButterfliesFrogs2. Provide scientific tools: Use a variety of hands-on tools and materials. Allow students to use magnifying glasses and rulers and they observe their specimens. I bought a few men’s white button-down dress shirts and called them “lab coats’ which the students absolutely loved. They felt like real scientists!

Science tools 1.5Lab coats 3


3. Teach journaling skills: The Science Fair is the perfect opportunity to teach vital journaling skills. My students learned how to tell time to the nearest minute, write a detailed observation in complete sentences, and draw a scientific diagram. They also highlighted new vocabulary terms which they compiled into a glossary. Plus, I used their observations as writing grades. Download this journal here


Journal 2.5Journal 3.5Butterfly procedures 1.5Science glossary 1.54. Showcase students’ work: Dedicate a bulletin board or showcase table to display students’ learning and scientific work samples. Creating a portfolio of their work is another great option.

Showcase student workMy students made these “Meet the Scientists” for our Science Fair night. They were a huge hit!

Meet the Scientist 1.55. Invite families: Have students create a formal invitation inviting families to the Science Fair. This is a great opportunity for students to share their new learning; parents are always so proud and impressed. You may also want to consider providing probing questions for parents to ask their children and an activity for children to showcase their skills. Be sure to provide refreshments (I bought inexpensive cookies from Target).

Invite familiesRefreshmentsI’d love to hear your great Science Fair ideas!


Turn Your Students Into Mad Scientists

Science projects are the perfect way to promote inquiry-based thinking, teach critical Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and motivate the most reluctant learners. Science projects allow students to: participate in shared research and writing projects; gather information from provided sources to answer questions; participate in collaborative conversations; and describe the connection between a series of scientific ideas or concepts.


Follow these 5 easy steps and turn your students into mad scientists:

  1. Select an engaging project that aligns with CCSS. My second grade class loves insects and they are required to study life cycles. So I created a life cycle of a painted lady butterfly unit for them.Older students can choose their projects to increase engagement and ownership.
  2. Set up a science center in the classroom. I created a large bulletin board complete with science project question, hypotheses graph, calendar to track observations and a vocabulary graphic organizer. I also selected a wide variety of nonfiction text (correlated to my students’ current reading levels) to use during reading group and read-aloud time. During observations, students go to a small circular table to observe the caterpillars and record results in their science journals. Magnifying glasses, rulers, pencils and crayons are available at this table to assist with journaling.2014-01-11 23.01.330592014-01-11 23.02.42
  3. Encourage dramatic role play. Scientists wear lab coats while working, why shouldn’t the students? I borrowed 5 white dress shirts from my dad, the perfect sized “lab coat” for my second grade students, rolled the sleeves and hung up at the science center. While students work at this center, they are allowed to wear the “lab coats” and they absolutely love it. They really focus on their work and are very precise and detailed with daily journal entries. I take pictures and use them for the interactive bulletin board (see below) and put one copy on the inside of the each student’s journal.
  4. Create an interactive bulletin board. My students had several questions about caterpillars and butterflies and were eager to learn the answers. I used these questions to make a scientific bulletin board. First I made magnifying glasses using brown construction paper handles, green paper plates (from Target) and a white construction paper magnifying glass lens. We brainstormed and recorded a list of questions together and then I partnered students to record and answer questions. One student wrote the question on the handle of the magnifying glass, the other wrote the answer on the white magnifying lens and glued inside the green plate. I added their pictures on top and displayed on a prominent bulletin board.054
  5. 2014-01-11 23.47.22055Hold a science fair. When the experiment is over, students can make personalized invitations for families (and possibly other classes) to come learn about the scientific findings. During the science fair, students can share journals and science report as well as show specimens and other related projects. I always put out refreshments (cookies and juice) to create an inviting atmosphere.

Download our CCSS science journal to start your new unit!

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