Last night, we participated in our first ever Science Fair. It was a chance for the kids to practise their communication skills in explaining their projects to the judges and visitors and a great push for all of us to inject more science into our learning these past few weeks. As this was the first time we have ever participated in a science fair, there is a lot that I learned to be able to take forward into future events.
1. Allow the child to choose their topic.
Children are self-motivated when it comes to things that they are interested in and excited about. If you don’t want to be the one to be assembling the project the night before or nagging constantly to get them to work on it, allowing them to choose their subject will also allow them to take ownership of the project. If it’s a project they are enthusiastic about and interested in, they will likely be the ones asking you if they can work on it than the other way around.
2. Take pictures of the project at home.
I thought that I would be taking so many pictures at the Science Fair but only was able to take a handful between there being so many people often crowded around the tables and so many distractions. Prior to risking a mishap in getting everything to the event, take pictures of everything at home in good lighting. This way, any pictures you are able to take at the event will be a bonus but it will not be something causing you additional stress.
3. Bring extra materials.
Remember the Girl Guide motto, “be prepared”. There are bound to be things that get forgotten or broken. Take extra parts with you. Also be sure to bring tape, scissors, pens, and paper. Triple check before you leave home that you have everything needed for the project and that you have the display board. We even brought a pitcher with water as one of our son’s projects needed water. We knew there would be water at the hall, but also knew there may be a long line of others needing it as well.
4. Bring reference books.
Bringing the reference books along allows your child the chance to be able to access additional information if needed for the judges. In our case, we had not completed Bibliographies to accompany our projects (see tip #5!) so reference books could have served as a replacement for that also.
5. Read the Science Fair requirements ahead of time.
I missed this step. I was e-mailed the judging sheets which included the types of things that were going to be looked at but I didn’t actually open the documents. This was a bit of a big oops! Had I opened the document, I would have read that for this particular Science Fair, there was to be a reference to God or a scripture verse included with the project and that there was to be a Bibliography and a log book. That would all have been very good information to know ahead of time! Learn from my mistake and read all relevant material pertaining to the event.
6. Discuss event etiquette prior.
As my kids are homeschooled and this was our first ever Science Fair, there were things that we needed to discuss at home. We talked about things such as not running in the hall, not touching other children’s experiments and projects no matter how tempting they looked, using good manners, and how to respond to possible scenarios that might arise. If there will be prizes given, discuss how they can respond appropriately if they receive a prize and how they can respond appropriately if they don’t.
7. Practise positive comments.
Whenever many children are gathered where they are all displaying the fruits of their hard work, the chance for comparison, jealousy, pride, and other negatives exist. I talked to my kids ahead of time about things such as everyone having different talents and interests. We practised things they could say that would be honest and positive about the work of the other kids. As I knew that there were going to be comment sheets at each station, we also practised writing a few words that would be appropriate for them to add to the comment sheets of others.
8. Role play the judging.
The part of this experience that my kids were the most nervous about was presenting to the judges. At home, we role played this and I asked them some of the potential questions they may encounter. We also stressed the importance of manners as the judges would be adults and should be treated with respect. They were to offer the judge a seat, give eye contact, use words such as “please” and “thank you”, and thank the judge and shake their hand when finished.
9. Have the child do the work.
I have to be honest and admit that it was difficult for me at times to step back and allow my kids to do their projects themselves. They used too much glue, didn’t always have things on straight, didn’t space things perfectly, had spelling errors here and there… I had to take some deep breaths and be sure that my perfectionist tendencies didn’t ruin their experience. For my youngest kids, I helped to glue things onto their display boards, but I tried to back off as much as I could and really let it be their project. They were so proud of themselves and really got to shine because I got out of the way!
Invite others such as grandparents and friends. Your kids will be feeling proud of themselves and you showing pride in them by attending and even inviting others will only add to their feelings of accomplishment. Afterwards, celebrate a job well done by giving praise and encouragement. Enjoy the night together!
This year’s Science Fair projects: