Science Fairs are both challenging and rewarding for students. I have both participated in them and judged them. In essence, I know what judges are looking for in a good project!
KINDERGARTEN through THIRD GRADE
I love to see little ones gaining interest in science. When judging a project for one of these age groups I always look for several things:
1. Does the project look like it was done BY the parent?
2. Can the child explain his or her project?
3. Is there a question being asked and answered?
Its okay if a kindergarten project shows HOW something works. There are unlimited ideas for projects on the Internet, but here are a couple of ideas:
– Compare products. Which one works the best, and why? Which one did you think would work the best, and why?
– Grow plants. See what different factors affect plant growth.
– Study magnetism. What attracts a magnet and why?
FOURTH THROUGH SIXTH GRADE
We are getting more technical here. I want to see the scientific method at work in a project for this group level.
Briefly, I want to see:
1. The student must have observed something that made him or her think.
2. The student must have developed a question or hypothesis that goes along with the observation. The student must evaluate the question and make a prediction. What does the STUDENT think will happen?
3. A logical way to answer this question must have been developed by the student. Measurements must be made and displayed neatly and in a straightforward way.
4. Valuable resources must have been consulted. I LOVE it when the student takes the initiative to contact an expert in the field!
5. The experiment must have been repeated.
6. A conclusion must have been reached. Does the conclusion support or refute the hypothesis?
A couple of ideas for this age group are:
– Do a statistical study. Use math that is appropriate for this age level.
– Grow bacteria! See what bacteria is living in different places (such as areas in your house or on your person!) Make sure this is done in a safe way.
JUNIOR HIGH AND HIGH SCHOOL
We are really striving for excellence here. In this age category, the sky is the limit. There are so many opportunities. When I was in this age group, I was able to work at a medical research center. The pros to doing this are many. There are experts at your disposal, and all the medical equipment you could wish for.
Make sure, however, that the project is done by you. Be honest if the doctor you worked with helped you come up with the idea. What do I look for in this age category?
1. Everything that I already listed about the scientific method.
2. A well laid out paper.
3. An abstract, displayed in a prominent place. I love it when the student hands me a copy.
4. Visible credit for all resources (including human ones!) displayed.
5. A log book – it’s okay if the writing is sloppy. I just want to see that everything that was done was also recorded.
6.Originality and knowledge of the role of this project in “the real world.”
7. Limitations (what went wrong and why) of the experiment.
I won’t give suggestions for this age group. This level project needs to be as original as possible.
A good website is www.sciencebuddies.org. This website has a user-friendly layout, and provides many great experiments for perusal.