SO YOU WANT TO HAVE AN ELEMENTARY SCIENCE FAIR?
RECRUIT A COMMITTEE: Enlist help of interested teachers, librarian, and parents.
Visit www.sarsef.org for dates and logistics if you plan to take students‟ projects to the community level.
Set a timeline for school Science Fair. Schedule and assign tasks: Setup, judging, viewing, breakdown,
submitting projects to Southern Arizona Regional Science and Engineering Fair (SARSEF). Note:
Consult SARSEF website at outset to be certain school Science Fair is completed in time to
participate in regional Science Fair.
Set school expectations: class projects encouraged for primary (kindergarten - second grade);
individual, pair or small group projects encouraged for intermediate (third - fifth grade); projects
optional or required; presentation required or simply final report; INQUIRY ONLY, NOT
DEMONSTRATION OR MODELS; work to be completed at school/at home; first/second/third place
awards or allowed number of projects for entry in SARSEF all have equal status; languages other than
English acceptable or not.
Create and distribute communications: to teachers, to students/parents. (This could be classroom
teacher‟s responsibility.) Note: Be very clear in communications with parents how much parent
involvement is too much.
Wednesday Professional Development: Model investigation/inquiry. Involve teachers in setting school
Number each project, and record number, title, student‟s name/teacher on a master list.
Contact/schedule judges and provide judging rubric (sample available on SARSEF website), list of
projects by number and title only, clipboard, and pencil. If there are professional scientists among
your school„s parents, request their assistance. Ask University of Arizona or Pima College educators
to help. Student teachers are another possibility. School personnel are okay if students‟ identities
are carefully protected. Note: Make snacks available for your judges if you can, as well as
certificates of appreciation. It‟s not an easy task.
Decide if teachers or parents will transport qualifying projects to SARSEF.
Decide where school projects will be displayed. (Order sack lunches if using cafeteria, and request
custodian„s assistance with tables in advance.)
If each student scientist will receive a certificate of participation, decide who will prepare/award
MODEL THE PROCESS FOR STUDENTS:
Teacher models the entire process utilizing an investigation from the curriculum. Select one that is
good at popping those “what if” questions for students. Collect the “what if” questions on a class
question chart. Decide as a group on one or a few questions that can be investigated.
In groups, have the students write up a plan and conduct an investigation.
Record the process, including question, hypothesis, procedure, observations, data collection,
conclusions, new questions (for further investigation). Note: Emphasize to students that disproving a
hypothesis is not “failing,” and can be as useful as confirming a hypothesis.
Each team will formalize their learning on a science fair board mimicking the write-up process and
make a presentation including the process, results, and conclusions.
BEGIN THE SCIENCE FAIR PROJECTS/Teacher tips:
Review with students the purpose and process of a science fair.
Students select inquiry questions from their notebooks, the question wall or their own. (Use questions
associated with a classroom investigation or brainstorm list of personal interests connected to the
classroom learning. What questions does the student have about one of his/her interests? Narrow
the investigation questions involving only one variable.)
Set classroom deadlines for periodic teacher review of: project plan (including needed materials),
data collection/organization (charts, graphs, etc.), in-class presentation.
Continue to model investigation, inquiry, and presentation while conducting FOSS investigations.
Especially stress the importance of investigating the student‟s own question, something s/he wants to
find out, rather than looking up a project someone has already completed, from a book or on the
internet. (If the results are already known, it is not an inquiry.)
Help students understand why it is important to vary only one element in an investigation.
Help students narrow their investigations: from “I want to know more about plants” to “ How will
varying amounts of sunlight affect plant growth?”
Support students in using appropriate and accurate measurement. Scientists need quantifiable
Have periodic deadlines for teacher review: question, plan, materials needed, report, presentation.
This is especially important for investigations done partly or mostly at home.
Visit the SARSEF website. It is extremely helpful.
Decide whether you will require all students to participate or if participation is optional.
Possible participation levels are individual, pair and group. (A class project is considered a group
investigation.) Decide whether you will conduct a class investigation or/and individual, pair, or group
investigations, and whether students may participate with non-classmates.
Inform students if their investigation will be part of their science grade, and if so, how it will be
evaluated, possibly creating a rubric together.
Save outstanding projects if students are willing to donate them. They are useful as models in the
INFORMATION FOR PARENTS:
Classroom timeline, school Science Fair schedule
Components of a scientific investigation (Question, hypothesis, procedure, data collection, sharing
results and conclusions, questions for future study)
Limits on parental assistance
Presentation guidelines: size, no name on front, no photos of people‟s faces, special permission for use
of animal subjects, limits on display materials, graphs/tables
School may offer to help provide materials if necessary.
Only one variable is to be investigated at a time for results to be valid.
Where presentation boards can be found
For projects qualifying for SARSEF: required form, when to be transported, whether school or
parents will pay entry fee
INQUIRY, NOT DEMONSTRATION OR MODEL
These helpful pointers were developed by TUSD teachers: Ellen Murphy, Meg Gebert, Karen Couch-
Murphy, Debbie Black, Charlotte Klingler, Kathy DeVinney, Michael McIntosh. 10-06