(Sample version for an average Science Fair)
It’s a great time to think about the science fair. I am really looking forward to seeing what students in grades ____ will do this year. The science fair for the ___ spring semester will be held _____ __, ____.
Benefits – By designing and displaying a science experiment or project, your child will have the opportunity to problem solve, study a particular science subject in depth, use their organizational and science processing skills, apply knowledge of science to everyday life, build self-esteem through accomplishment, use imagination and critical thinking skills, encourage scientific inquiry, discover scientific interests, integrate interdisciplinary skills (art, math, oral, written and visual communication), promote quality of work and public relations.
Parental Assistance – The Experiments and Projects are to be done by the students. Parents may assist by:
1. Giving advice to help students select a good topic. Factors to consider are availability of supplies and research materials, as well as student’s hobbies and interests
2. Helping students get the materials needed for the experiment
3. Provide access to library for research
4. Help students get in contact with a specialist or a person knowledgeable about the topic
5. Proofreading, editing, printing or typing student’s final draft of their write up
6. Help student gather materials for a sturdy, neat and creative display.
7. Encourage students to submit each section of the experiment or project by the due date
8. Transporting the display to the Science Fair
Levels of Participation – All levels need a display to participate in the Science Fair.
Level 1 – Independent Science Fair Experiment; non-judged – parent will decide requirements other than mandatory display
Level 2 – Class Guided Science Fair Projects and Experiments; non-judged
-will work through the steps of the Scientific Method in class and in homework
Level 3 – Independent Science Fair Experiment; judged
Level 4 – Class Guided Science Fair Experiment; judged.
Judging Requirements – Colorful, neat display with steps of the scientific method, control and variables clearly displayed and labeled and at least one visual aid; background research using three properly documented sources and a research write-up of at least 1 page; a procedural write up that gives the information on the display expanded and complete, availability of the student during Family Night to answer questions from parents and fellow students for at least twenty minutes.
Though the judging is a contest, the most important things are for students to learn how to do a Science Fair Experiment or Project, to get to know their chosen topic well enough to teach others about it, to experience the feeling of accomplishment in completing an experiment or project of which they can be proud. (And maybe have a lot of fun along the way.) We look forward to guiding your children in this process. If you have any questions, please contact us: _______________________________.
Eight Steps of the Scientific Method
Step 1. – Choose a PROBLEM (Question)
Step 2. – RESEARCH your PROBLEM (Get information)
Step 3. – Develop a HYPOTHESIS (Make an educated guess)
Step 4. – Write the PROCEDURES (Steps to conduct the EXPERIMENT, with a CONTROL and VARIABLE.)
Step 5. – Test your HYPOTHESIS (Conduct the EXPERIMENT)
Step 6. – Organize your RESULTS (Figure out what happened and how to present it to others)
Step 7. – State your CONCLUSION (Explain what you learned, whether and why your guess was correct or not, ask other questions your EXPERIMENT lead to)
Step 8. – COMMUNICATE the RESULTS (Share what you learned in writing, visual display and/or by talking to people)
DIRECTIONS FOR A SCIENCE FAIR EXPERIMENT THAT MEETS JUDGING REQUIREMENTS
Time Table of Stages for Guidance (with Suggested Last Start Date and Approx. Time to Complete)
Stage 1 – Topic and PROBLEM – Be sure to pick a topic that your are interested in and you have information and materials available on. The PROBLEM sets up a possible EXPERIMENT on your topic. 1 week
Stage 2 – Background RESEARCH and HYPOTHESIS – For the Background RESEARCH use a minimum of 3 different sources to write a one page, typed report discussing your topic and information that will affect your EXPERIMENT. 3 weeks
Stage 3 – Procedure Design –The EXPERIMENT Design should include the PROBLEM, HYPOTHESIS,materials needed and a description of the PROCEDURES with the VARIABLE and CONTROL group identified. 2 weeks
Stage 4 – EXPERIMENT and RESULTS – The process of actually conducting the
EXPERIMENT and recording the RESULTS will vary greatly depending on the chosen EXPERIMENT. It is better to give too much rather than too little time to complete this stage. 3 days – 6 weeks
Stage 5 – CONCLUSION, Final Draft of the Write Up and the Display – The Final Draft of the write-up should follow the scientific method format given. The Display should be freestanding, colorful and neat with parts of the Scientific Method clearly labeled. At least one visual aid is recommended. 2 weeks
Stage 6 – Science Fair Experiment/Project Brought In – The Final Draft of the Background Research and Write-up and Display are brought in and set up for the Science Fair at Family Night. Students should be prepared to explain their experiment to parents and other students. Experiments entered into the judging must be brought in on before the start of co-op for judges to have time to review them. 1 night
Stage 1 – Topic and PROBLEM
Step 1. Select topic and PROBLEM – With the help of advice from your parents, friends and/or a teacher, you will pick a topic. It is often helpful to pick 3 topics and to select from those as you gather more information. Make sure your topics are something you find interesting. If you are in grades 6-12, make sure they are topics on which you can conduct an EXPERIMENT. (For example, unless you are planning a trip to a volcano or into space, you would have a hard time conducting an EXPERIMENT on these topics.) You should be able to easily gather information and supplies for this topic. Topic examples : Effects of temperature on plants; Hermit crab eating habits; Detergent’s stain cleaning abilities. Make sure your topic is not too broad nor too narrow.
Topic – Plant needs Bad Ex 1. – Plants (too broad)
Bad Ex 2. – The effects of a drought on the dogwood in my yard (too narrow)
Define the PROBLEM (question to be answered) clearly. Decide exactly what question you will answer with your EXPERIMENT. Your PROBLEM must be a solvable question about your topic. Possible format for forming your question might be: How does (varying condition: temperature, age, color, weight, etc.) affect (hobby)? Make sure your question can be answered reasonably easily with an EXPERIMENT that you will be able to conduct. Be sure that you will be able to find a CONTROL to test your VARIABLE against for the PROBLEM you pose.
Bad Ex. – What happens to plants if they don’t get enough water?
Good Ex. 1 – Do Plants need water to live?
Ex. 2. Do extreme temperatures effect the growth of plants?
Ex. 3. Will hermit crabs eat soap?
Ex. 4. Which leading detergent cleans grass stains the best?
Ex. 5. How does H2O2 effect yeast?
Ex. 6. Will the placement of a switch on a parallel circuit effect the electricity reaching all instruments?
Ex. 7. Will using a parallel circuit instead of a series circuit effect the electricity reaching all the instruments?
Stage 2 – REARCH and HYPOTHESIS
Step 2.- RESEARCH your PROBLEM.
A. RESEARCH – a. Find information related to your PROBLEM.
b. Read about related topics. Interview people who are knowledgeable about topics related to your PROBLEM. Use at least 3 sources. At least 1 source must be non-website and non-encyclopedia; may include, but is not limited to: books, magazines, newspapers, television or radio documentaries and news reports, informational posters and interviews with specialists. (For experiments involving products, Consumer Reports is a good source of information.)
c. Take notes. Be sure to keep correct bibliographical references, including such information as: author, title, publisher, place and date of publication, page numbers, volume numbers for encyclopedias and issue month/year for magazines, URL addresses for websites.
Using note cards is a good method for keeping track of research notes. You should cite the source of the information on individual note cards. Each note card should contain 1 complete thought on your topic. You will need note cards that contain both general and specific information.
Ex. 1. If your PROBLEM were : Do extreme temperatures effect the growth of plants? You could read about plant needs, rain forests, oceans and deserts. Interview a person at a plant nursery. Read about previous experiments done with plants and water, or science project books that cover plant experiments.
Ex. 2. Interview with Dr. Jerry Mansfield, “The Plant Doctor”. Country Market Nursery.
Nov. 10, 20__.
House plants should definitely be brought inside before the first frost of autumn or they will die from the cold temperatures.
Ex. 3. Smith, Susan. Invertebrate Pets. Clearing House Pub. (N.Y., 1987) p. 45-47.
Hermit crabs should be feed hermit crab food, which is specially designed
for their nutritional needs. But you will find that they will eat a variety of
different foods, including some non-food items.
Ex. 4. Encyclopedia Britannica. Merril Pub. (Iowa, 1980) Vol. L; p. 378.
Organic solutes such as food, blood and grass stains are dissolved in organic solvents.
B. Write your Background Research using your note cards or notes. State the topic and PROBLEM your EXPERIMENT will solve. The PROBLEM should be in question form. Organize the information into at least 2 parts. The 1st part should be generally about your topic. The second part should contain specific RESEARCH about your PROBLEM and EXPERIMENT. You should attempt to answer your PROBLEM question as thoroughly as possible from your RESEARCH. If your EXPERIMENT comes from a Science Fair Project Book, the conclusion they give you about how the project should turn out and why, could be cited here. List your sources alphabetically at the bottom, in proper bibliographical notation. Be sure to edit it. Have someone else take a look at it. Type up your final draft now or after you’ve completed your EXPERIMENT.
Simple Ex. Many plants are affected by too much heat or cold and need specific temperature conditions for healthy growth. The range of temperatures acceptable to cactus plants is 65 F – 120 F. While poinsettias have an acceptable temperature range of 45 F – 75 F. For either plant to go beyond these ranges might mean death. If a plant lives near the edges of these ranges for too long the growth is stunted and often the leaves are damages. If 3 cacti are compared, one at 85 F, another at 65 F ans another at 30 F for 2 months, with all other conditions the same, then there will be a noticeable effect. The plant at 85 F, the normal range for a cactus, will be healthy and show regular growth in 2 months. The plant at 65 F will be alive but will not grow, and may show some damage. The plant at 30 F will be dead due to the cold.
Sources: Cacti Unplugged. Desert, Gobi. Dry Books Publishing, (California, 1985).
Dr. Jerry Mansfield, “The Plant Doctor”. Interviewed at Country Market Nursery, Nov. 20__. Miracle Grow Plant Chart. Miracle Grow. 1991.
Step 3. – Develop a HYPOTHESIS. (guess) – Your HYPOTHESIS must answer your PROBLEM. It is an educated guess at the answer, so it should be based on your RESEARCH that is your “education” about your PROBLEM. It doesn’t have to be the correct answer. Sometimes we learn the most when we get unexpected RESULTS.
Ex. 1. Yes, plants do need water to live.
Ex. 2. Yes, extreme temperatures will slow or stop plant growth.
Ex. 3. Yes, hermit crabs will eat soap because they are scavengers.
Ex. 4. Of the brands to be tested BOLD will clean grass stains the best.
Stage 3 – Procedural Design
Step 4. – Write your PROCEDURES. (directions) – You must now design or find an EXPERIMENT that will test your HYPOTHESIS to see if it is the correct answer to your PROBLEM. Even though your RESEARCH supports your HYPOTHESIS you must now prove for yourself whether it is correct or not. Your EXPEIMENT must have a clear CONTROL(standard) to which you can compare the RESULTS of your VARIABLE. Write or type step-by-step directions to your EXPERIMENT, including a list of the materials needed. Make your directions so clear and detailed that someone who has never seen your EXPERIMENT could follow these steps and do exactly what you did. Then they would be able to see if they would get the same RESULTS.
If using an experiment from a book, then you may just copy this information from the book. If you copy the steps from a book, please be sure to include any changes you are making, like material substitutions or extra and deleted steps.
Ex. 1. Materials: 3 cactus plants approximately the same size, 3 same size poinsettias, watering can, a place with good light near the heater, a place with good light in the basement, a place with a good light outside, protected from the wind and rain, a ruler, a thermometer.
1. Place 1 cactus and 1 poinsettia in each of the 3 places.
2. Water each plant appropriately, making sure the 3 cacti get the same amount of water, 1/8 of a cup per week. Also give each Poinsettia the same amount of water, 1 cup per week.
3. Take the temperature at each spot at 7:00 am and 3:00 pm on the same day once per week ans record.
4. Measure each plant’s height once per week and record.
5. Observe each plant’s condition and record once per week.
Ex. 2. Materials : 2 3-inch pots, 1 cup of dry soil, 2 pinto beans, teaspoon measuring spoon, water, ruler, sunny windowsill
1. Plant 2 pinto bean seeds in 2 3-inch pots with ½ cup of dry soil. Label A and B.
2. Give A 3 tablespoons of water.
3. Place both pots on a sunny windowsill.
4. Every 3 days, give A 3 teaspoons of water.
5. Measure both the sprouts of A and B every 3 days for 2 weeks.
Stage 4 – EXPERIMENT and RESULTS
Step 5. – Test your HYPOTHESIS. (guess) – Carefully perform your EXPERIMENT. Keep accurate records of what happened during your experiment. If you choose to record information with pictures now is the time to photograph it or make drawings of it while it is happening. Before and after pictures are often the easiest and most effective. Several stages of pictures are great, too. Save pieces for accuracy and/or display purposes . Consider doing your EXPERIMENT more than once to see if the RESULTS are the same.
Step 6. – Organize your RESULTS. (findings) – Put your RESULTS data and findings in order, make them neat and easy to read. Making a graphs or tables of the information is a good way to organize data and looks really good on your display. (The example wouldn’t fit in this format, but will be included in the attachment for those that sign up.)
Stage 5 – CONCLUSION, Final Draft of the Write-up and the Display
Step 7. – State your CONCLUSION. (answer) – You should have at least 2 paragraphs for your CONCLUSION. It can be much longer if you would like to do a thorough write-up. Write an answer to your PROBLEM or question from the beginning of the project. Was your HYPOTHESIS right or wrong? If you were wrong, why do you think you were wrong? If you were partly right and partly wrong, why do you think that happened? If your EXPERIMENT failed for some reason you explain what happened in this section. Did you have any surprising RESULTS? What did you learn from doing your EXPERIMENT? Did you learn anything that would be good for people to know? Your EXPERIMENT should have answered your original PROBLEM or question, but it should also have caused you to ask other questions. What other questions have you come across in doing your EXPERIMENT, or in RESEARCHing your topic?
Ex. Temperature does effect plant growth. My hypothesis was correct. The cactus died outside in the 10 F – 35 F temperatures and the poinsettia almost died. It lost all of its leaves. Also the poinsettia next to the heater in 10 F – 35 F temperatures started to wilt and turn brownish by the 4th week, even though the soil was moist. The plants that stayed within those ranges grew more than the others and were the healthiest.
Step 8. – Final Draft of the Write-up – At this stage that your pieces start to come together. This part must be typed. Please include your name on the back cover of your Write-up. Judges will be instructed to not look at the names to help them be impartial. The pieces are put together in this order.
I. Background RESEARCH.
II. Pre- experiment information
A. PROBLEM (in question form)
D. PROCEDURES (CONTROL and VARIABLE clear, detailed step-by-step directions)
III. Post-experiment information
A. RESULTS (Observations and Data).
Step 9. – Display – Your display should consist of a freestanding board (1, 2 or 3 pieces) (approximately 2 – 3 ft. in height) using poster board, plywood, cork board etc. Neatly present your Science Fair Experiment or Project with a title. Use extra large letters for the title of your project. The title should be based on your topic or your PROBLEM, but try to keep it short. The stages should be clearly labeled and neat: PROBLEM, HYPOTHESIS, PROCEDURES ( keep this simple and short on the display, list MATERIALS before and separately, the CONTROL and VARIABLE should be clear), RESULTS (should be clear and easy to read, options for showing results include : photographs, drawings, measurements in a table or graphed), CONCLUSION (keep it short but thorough for the display.) Label the different steps of the scientific method, in letters large enough to see from 10 feet away. Letters cut from construction paper, bought, or carefully written on construction paper work best. Backing these labels with another color looks good too and helps the display look neat and eye catching. Your PROBLEM and HYPOTHESIS statements should also be large enough to see from a distance. The information for your MATERIALS, PROCEDURES, RESULTS and CONCLUSION should be neatly written or typed on index cards or typing paper cut to size to be mounted under their labels.
You should have at least 1 visual aid: a picture (photograph or drawing), a graph, chart or table, a sample of the materials used to perform the experiment. You may have more than 1 visual aid if you chose, but you must have at least 1. Visual aids make your project look interesting so time spent on these goes a long way in getting people interested in your project. (See diagram.)
Stage 6 – Experiment/Project Brought In
Step 10. – Bring the Experiment/Project – Background Research (typed), Project Write-up using the scientific method (typed and completed), display with at least I visual aid. Everyone will bring in their display and set it up at the church. If you are in a Science Fair Class, you will give a show and tell presentation about your project. You will need to briefly explain your problem, hypothesis, procedure, results and conclusion (1-2 minutes). This will be followed by a brief question and answer session with class mates. Focus on clarity, conciseness, poise, and answer/ attempt to answer each questions. We will ask you many questions, so be knowledgeable about your topic in general and your EXPERIMENT specifically. During Family Night you will need to be able to answer questions from your fellow students and parents also. Judging will take place after Co-op and before Family Night so your display must be in place. Winners of the judging will be announced at Family Night.
Step 11 – Projects are to be taken with you when you leave. The projects will be judged on the display, the write-up and on whether the control and variable for the experiment are clear.
Sample of Form provided to Judges:
Judging Criteria Project number __________
Followed the Scientific Method: Problem, Research, Hypothesis, Materials, Procedures with Control and Variable, Results and logical Conclusion.
0 2 4 6 8 10
Clear presentation of the information in the display, Background Research and Write-up: easy to see, easy to read, concise.
0 2 4 6 8 10
Colorful, neat, labeled, at least 1 visual aid (a picture, a graph, a chart or an object associated with the experiment.)
0 2 4 6 8 10
Originality in problem, methods and display.
0 2 4 6 8 10
All steps done well; background research contains both general and specific information; results and conclusion well thought through.
0 2 4 6 8 10