How effective are Science Fair type activities for elementary aged children? Being in a Title I school, the talk of a Science Fair has never been approached but I think it can be helpful in getting scholars who are not interested in science to see how engaging, fun, and the amount of learning they can get from multiple hands-on activities that they compile themselves through investigation. 

Mallory Latimore
Mallory Latimore
275 Activity Points

This is an excellent question. In my experience, science is rarely taught at my Title I school, and is only focused on in fifth grade when its time for the fifth grade science STARR. I believe science fair activities are wonderful for elementary age students, as its sparks their creativity and curiosity. Science fairs are a fantastic way to incorporate long term inquiry based learning and deep exploration of a science topic. This type of research and discovery would do wonders for our students and change the pacing of the somewhat rigorous nature that many Title I schools seem to take on.

Lola Ogunro
Lola Ogunro
445 Activity Points

Dear Mallory, I ran a science fair at my son's elementary school. Let me know if you want any advice. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has made a series of videos about choosing a science fair project topic, what to put on the display board, and more. Here's the link: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/learn/activities/science-fair-project/ I hope this helps! Best wishes, Rachel Rachel.Zimmerman-Brachman@jpl.nasa.gov

Rachel Zimmerman Brachman
Rachel Zimmerman Brachman
2000 Activity Points

When I was in middle school we did a Culture fair, which integrated all of the core subject areas into one large project. We were in groups of 3 or 4, and each got a country to research. At the end of the unit we set up booths in the gym and the entire eighth grade got to walk around and see all the other countries involved. We also made foods that were well known from that country. It turned out to be a big hit among the students, and is something I will not ever forget.

Allison Gandrup
Allison Gandrup
3790 Activity Points

Here is a good article about how effective science fair is with NSTA's mentions too, the result might surprise you:https://qz.com/367007/science-fairs-arent-actually-preparing...-anything/

An Vu
An Vu
350 Activity Points

Here is a good article about STEM family nights. You may want to go in this direction
http://static.nsta.org/files/sc1701_48.pdf. My former school would have math nights where parents and students could come and try some interactive projects. This was a title school also.

Brenda Velasco
Brenda Velasco
2520 Activity Points

This article was very timely! Thanks!

Debra Bahr
Debra Bahr
135 Activity Points

I've personally never been to a science fair, maybe once, I just cannot remember. I will say that science fair does have it's perks and it just doesn't include improving ones own ability to present their work to people. A student has to really understand what they are going to present, for example, how the moon affects the ocean tides at night. Proper research is required, getting their project board ready for people to be captured by the information presented, and not making it too "plain" for people just to take a glance and walk away. Students want to properly research on whatever topic they are going to present to viewers may be informed, intrigued visually, and learn something from project presented at the fair. As I mentioned earlier, presenting in front of dozens of viewers also helps a students confidence and social skills!

Carmen Flores
Carmen Flores
450 Activity Points

Unfortunately the topic of Science is often neglected in elementary school settings. The push for science lessons at this level has been evident and will hopefully continue. As for science fairs, I strongly believe that science fairs are a great way to evaluate and assess students' comprehension and knowledge without using the formal testing. The knowledge gained throughout the year can be extended through the students' direction or the teacher can offer topics for the children to choose from. Opening up the forum for the children to pick their own science fair topics (with teacher approval) can help the push for students to be interested in science. The students will also hone in on their social skills through the presentation. The students must have an in-depth understanding of the content in order for them to present their data and findings. I believe that science fairs are underutilized at the elementary level and should be considered for summative assessments of the students' knowledge. Overall, science fairs come with some amazing benefits and can spark interest in science for children at this age.

Kevin Wahl
Kevin Wahl
765 Activity Points

The science fair at the school that I student teach at was held by the science teachers. The students were very interested in some of the activities. I noticed that students who were exposed to science in classroom were more engaged and curious to find and perform activities. The others were not so curious, I don't know if they were under pressure because they were surrounded by their teachers.

Hadeel Alrubaye Barries
Hadeel Alrubaye Barries
1010 Activity Points

The science fair at the school that I student teach at was held by the science teachers. The students were very interested in some of the activities. I noticed that students who were exposed to science in classroom were more engaged and curious to find and perform activities. The others were not so curious, I don't know if they were under pressure because they were surrounded by their teachers.

Hadeel Alrubaye Barries
Hadeel Alrubaye Barries
1010 Activity Points

I participated in science fairs in grades 6-9, judged it for about 10 years before coaching my own kids the last 3 years, and have done a couple small studies on science fair over the past 4 years. I want to make 2 comments. 1. There are science fairs and there are science fairs and you have to define what you mean by a science fair to be able to carry on a meaningful conversation. a. ISEF (once Westinghouse, then Intel) the international science fair which draws from state and local science fairs is one kind of fair that starts at grade 6 and involves students conducting experimental/control experiments - no baking soda volcano demonstrations here! This embodies science fair in its purest form because the students are doing science and presenting their own results. There are downsides - the cost to enter, the paperwork, etc. When the word "research" is used here, it might have 2 meanings ... 1 is background information to design the experiment and interpret the results ... in line with real science research done by scientists. b. There are school science fairs that are not part of ISEF. Here, it is much more likely that anything goes - including the baking soda and vinegar volcano and reports on "My pet cat Fluffy." Here, "research" exclusively means looking stuff up, which is not what practicing scientists do all day, and there might be no experimentation at all. While I am not saying these projects are without value, they certainly are substantially different from the first category. 2. Science fairs get a mostly undeserved bad rap ([color=#212121][font=Calibri, sans-serif][size=3]Craven and Hogan, 2008 and McBride and Silverman, 1988 ... note these would not count as science research because they are mostly just anti-science fair rants based off of an anecdotes ... sample size of 1 ... although other authors citing these articles in their articles calls this garbage "studies" and "data". Heck, the one is technically about a flower [/size][size=3]arranging[/size][size=3] competition, but they use that [/size][size=3]heartbreaking[/size][size=3] anecdote to condemn science fairs) And when these ideas (demos not science, parental involvement, etc.) get repeated over and over in pop culture (Simpsons episode on science fairs: [/size][/font][/color][color=#212121][font=Calibri, sans-serif][size=3]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpzKXOIwTmo) then it is no wonder it can be an uphill battle to get districts to consider them. Note that at the ISEF kind of science fair (a) parents are not allowed in the room while projects are being judged and (b) if you are getting external help from industry or a university, there are specific forms about what parts were the student work, etc. Science fair has tried very hard to clean up any legitimate criticisms.[/size][/font][/color] [color=#212121][font=Calibri, sans-serif][size=3]3. Surprisingly, similar events (you mention math nights and culture nights) do not seem to suffer the same bad rap as science fair. I am getting ready to start a study on science fairs vs. History Day (an event that is growing at the same time ISEF type science fairs are experiencing 70% declines). The interesting thing is that the same criticisms that can be leveled at science fair can be leveled at History Day, of the 6 projects I judged 2 weeks ago, there was 1 case of blatant plagiarism that I was instructed to ignore. Science fair has an interview (and I agree with a previous post - this is the best part, it builds pose and public speaking skills that are transferable to any field) and the interview is used to gauge whether or not the student, or the parent, did the project. History Day has an interview, but it is forbidden in the judging to actually use the interview to score the project - I guess it is just about feelings. Science has studied science fairs - and there are statistics on the percent of students who have cheated, received excess help, falsified data, etc. Science is willing to be self-critical. The "lit" I found on History Day seemed to involve interviewing the creator and a couple champions if they liked it and thought it was good. Duh! But from these, I find a lot of lit recommending the use of History Day (but not science fair) for differentiation for advanced students. Just because science has studied itself and History hasn't doesn't mean that History doesn't have problems.[/size][/font][/color]

Richard Lahti
Richard Lahti
2425 Activity Points

Post Reply

Forum content is subject to the same rules as NSTA List Serves. Rules and disclaimers