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Tips for a Successful Science Fair

K12 administrators, looking to encourage quality student projects, can follow these suggestions from various experts.
  • Lead from the top, suggests Hamilton City (Ohio) School District Superintendent Janet Baker, who continues the tradition of holding district science fairs. "I think the expectations for anything you want done have to start at the board and superintendent level," Baker suggests.
  • Look for ways that the skills involved in creating science projects match state standards in science, math and even language arts. (With language arts standards in mind, Hamilton City requires sixth-graders to include a research paper with their mandatory science exhibits.)
  • Take advantage of the recent push for 21st-century skills, especially critical thinking, collaboration and creativity."These Cs are embedded in science fair research," says Dean Gilbert, president of the Los Angeles County regional science fair.
  • Find local or online volunteer mentors—from companies to higher education institutions—to work with students on their projects, an approach that adds expertise and helps take the entire load off already busy teachers.
  • Take advantage of free lesson plans available for creating science projects. For example, Disney's Planet Challenge—for grades 3-8—provides an eight-lesson package aligned with the standards in all 50 states.
  • Partner with local organizations—from Rotary Clubs and Boys and Girls Clubs to community colleges and hospitals—to exhibit students' projects as a way of giving their work a higher profile.