Mutter those words to students and they will either jump for joy or groan. Mention the words to parents and they often will groan louder. Somehow over the years science fair has gotten a bad name. Could it be that students are expected to conduct an experiment at home with little time spent in class actually working on their project? Or is it because the students wait until the last minute to tell their parents that they have a science fair project and they spend the entire night before it’s due coming up with a project idea that they can complete in less than 3 hours. Perhaps it’s neither of these, and instead it’s that both students and parents (maybe even teachers) haven’t had a user-friendly resource to help muddle through the scientific process of conducting a science fair project. I know that as a science teacher, we are expected to have our students complete science fair projects but don’t have time scheduled into the curriculum to have students actually work on science fair projects in class.
Luckily, Discovery Education has once again come to our aid. Discovery education has partnered up with Scotch® to bring us Science Fair Central.
Simply go to: http://school.discoveryeducation.com/sciencefaircentral/ for step-by-step help for students, parents and teachers. “Science Fair Central” contains more than 100 project ideas that are broken down into easy or complex investigations and there is even a section for inventions.
The website has a “getting started” section which will help students choose a project type, understand the difference between investigations and inventions and find testable questions. There is even a section where they can validate their topic – to make sure that they have enough time to complete their project, the proper materials, that they follow the appropriate safety procedures, their project is appropriate and that they follow safety if they are using animals in their experiment.
Parents can visit the site and use the “parent resources” section to help their students stay on track. This area of the site explains the parent’s role in the science fair project process, how to help their student come up with an idea and how to support their student during the investigation process and where to get supplies.
For teachers, or science fair coordinators, there is a section to help with reasons to host a science fair, types of projects available, science fair judging criteria and supplies needed to host a science fair as well as a parent letter that can be customized based on your needs.
The best part of the site, in my opinion, is the virtual labs section of the site. This section provides students with an opportunity to practice conducting experiments in a controlled environment. There are even teacher guides and student worksheets that are available to download.
I know that if I had come across this resource when I became the science fair coordinator at my school, it would have saved me hours of time coming up with science fair project ideas and science fair project expectations. I also would have a site to share with parents to help with some of the frustrations that come with their student’s science fair project.
With all of the great resources from Discovery Education and “Science Fair Central,” what will Discovery Education think of next?