Elementary Level Science Fairs

11 Dec 2018 3:37 PM | Kathaleen R. Burke

I am a new charter school science teacher (Grades K - 5). We are going to have a science fair the last week of March 2019. I would like to find an organization that can help me plan it. I'd like the fair to be a lot of fun, unique, and of course very informative. I'd like flashing lights to go with the music.
Are there any organizations that would sponsor this science fair? Does anyone have any ideas?

Cathy Smith

Congratulations on committing to a science fair at the K-5 level. Most science fairs occur from grade 5 and up. There is a recent report out that makes the case for early experiences. The brief, "Considerations for STEM Education from PreK-3", is from the Community Advancing Discovery Research in Education and sponsored by the NRC. It highlights important considerations about STEM educational experiences for young children. It makes the case for early exposure to STEM fields and summarizes research that says it makes a big difference for kids in socio-emotional development and STEM-related habits of mind like critical thinking, and improves performance in other subjects.

As far as support for your endeavor, New York State has fine resources. Of course, the closest might be your STANYS section. If you do not know your section contact you can find it at stanys.org/sections. There is also the STEM Hub network. The STEM Hub network is a partnership of educators and business community members. Financial support for teacher efforts is a priority for most Hubs. You can find your contact person through https://www.listemhub.org/ . The NewYork Science Congress also has support practices that you could use and contact people that you can find through your STANYS section..

All of these organizations will emphasize that you focus your projects on the appropriate NYSSLS grade level performance expectations and science and engineering practices. Two other important features of your science fair would be support for teams of two to four and facilitation of parent involvement.

This should give you a good start on organizing but please feel free to follow-up with comments or other questions.

Kathy Burke


  • 13 Dec 2018 2:24 PM | Kathaleen R. Burke
    I want to add the suggestion that the "Science Fair" should be evolving into the "STEM" Fair. Sorry I didn't suggest that the first time but an elementary science coach reminded me yesterday. Over 50 years of science fairs stuck in my brain but easily updated. :)
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    • 17 Dec 2018 5:25 PM | John Cunningham
      Aside from the obvious - like typing "Elementary Science Fair" into a search engine - the need to assemble a self-assured cadre of children who can hardly wait to show off their skills is paramount.

      Every class of students I taught (30 of 'em) pointed the finger of preparation earlier and earlier each year. Thinking three months ahead of the event you want means that you may already have encouraged your kids to ask questions - the foundation of 3-D teaching.

      The pattern of asking do-able questions about do-able things must become your students state of mind throughout the school year. Do-ably testing do-able guesses is the engine for science fair preparation. Do you stop a lesson for a good "what-if?" question?

      Regarding "sponsorship," gaining support ($, materials) for your fair has a better chance when you consciously assemble a constituency for it. Have you devoted lessons to examples of scientific thinking at the Elementary level?
      From experience, all the money needed for putting a science fair in play in your school will go nowhere unless there are eager children with do-able ideas asking for it.

      Start with challenges to test guesses for exploring questions about phenomena you bring to the classroom. Within weeks, budding scientists begin to emerge. These become the raw material for your constituency.
      The rest is infectuous, as long as you don't treat them exclusively, and recognize this patterned exploratory behavior when you see it.

      Posters of each new experiment-idea accumulate on the walls of your classroom as quickly as you let your students teach you about themselves. These posters are your ads for why there should be a science fair in your school. Invite your market - parents, administrators, colleagues - in to see them.

      That's when the fun starts.
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