Science Fair

                              science fair image

Our school science fair is on May 8! We have a lot of work to do to get ready. On this page I will be adding the assignments and due dates to help you get your project done on time.

Parent Information: Parents click on this link to download tips for how you can help your child with their science fair project.

                                                             --------------------

Create a Research Question
-- DUE APRIL 9
Your first step is to come up with a topic you want to study and a research question to answer.

A scientific question usually starts with: How, What, When, Who, Which, Why, or Where. Here are some characteristics of a good science fair project question:
  • The question should be interesting! You'll be reading about this topic and working on your project for the next several weeks, so pick something you like.
  • There should be at least 3 different sources of written information on the subject. You want to be able to build on the experience and knowledge of others.
  • The question should address a scientific problem and you should be able to answer it by performing scientific experiments. It needs to be something that you can measure.

Example science fair questions:

  1. How do different foundations stand up to earthquakes?
  2. When is the best time to plant soy beans?

Here are some helpful resources to help you come up with a research question:

The Topic Selection Wizard asks you a series of questions about everyday interests and activities then recommends an area of science and science fair project ideas that are best for you.

Science Fair Project Ideas lets you browse through hundreds of science fair project ideas.

Once you have selected a topic and question, complete this Project Proposal form.

Do Background Research -- DUE APRIL 14
Before you conduct your experiment, you're going to want to do some background research so that you can better understand the science behind your activity. These two worksheets will help you as you do your research.

1. Background Research Plan Worksheet: Instead of just searching for information randomly online or at the library, it helps to come up with a research plan. Using the worksheet, you want to list all the keywords or topics related to your project. Then use your topics to come up with questions related to your experiment.
For example, if I was investigating "Which type of ice cube will melt faster -- one made of juice, milk, water, or soda?" Then some of my keywords might be: melting, ice, Pepsi, milk, and water. A few questions that I could ask are: How does melting happen?, Why do ice cubes melt? and What is Pepsi made of?
2. Bibliography Worksheet: As you are conducting research, keep track of ALL of the books, magazines, and websites you read using this worksheet. You should have at least three different sources (try not to use only websites).

Develop Hypothesis, Design Experiment & Write Research Paper -- DUE MAY 1

Develop a hypothesis.
After doing background research, you should have a better idea about the topic you are studying. Your next step will be to develop your hypothesis. A hypothesis is an educated guess about the answer to your research question.

Your hypothesis should be worded so that you can test it in your experiment. Good scientists create experiments that are a fair test.  This means that you only change factor at a time in your experiment while everything else stays the same. Variables are the changing factors in an experiment.

Most of the time a hypothesis is written like this:
"If _____[I do this] _____, then _____[this]_____ will happen."
(Fill in the blanks with the appropriate information from your own experiment.)
Example hypotheses:
  • If a plant receives fertilizer, then it will grow to be bigger than a plant that does not receive fertilizer.
  • If I put an ice cube in glass of soda, then it will melt faster than an ice cube in a glass of water that is the same temperature.
  • Raising the temperature of a cup of water will increase the amount of sugar that dissolves.
  • A colored candle will melt faster than a uncolored candle.
To help you come up with your hypothesis, complete the Variables & Hypothesis Worksheet.

Research Paper
Your next step will be to write a research paper explaining what you have learned from your research and the science behind your experiment. Your paper should include:
  • The history of similar experiments or inventions
  • Definitions of all important words and key terms that describe your experiment
  • Answers to your background research plan questions
  • Information from different sources (websites, books, and other publications)
  • Pictures or charts that help describe your experiment and the information
Before you begin writing your essay, you need to organize your ideas and information you researched.  Use this Research Paper Outline to plan your writing. Your essay should be at least five paragraphs long and include details and facts from your research. Make sure that your essay is written clearly using complete sentences and paragraphs.
               
Citing sources: When you're writing a research paper, it's important to record where you found your information. For every fact or picture in your research paper you should follow it with a citation. A citation is just the name of the author and the date of the publication placed in parentheses like this: (Author, date). If your source does not have an author, just include the title of the article or webpage instead.

Here is a sample essay and organizer that might help you get started: Sample Paper

Design your experiment.
Now that you have come up with a hypothesis, your next step is to develop an experimental procedure for testing whether it is true or false.

First, you will need to plan a procedure that shows how you will change your independent variable and how you will measure the effect it has. Write the experimental procedure like a step-by-step recipe for your science experiment. A good procedure is so detailed and complete that someone else should be able to use it to perform the exact same experiment you did.

Also, good scientists perform their experiments more than once. Repeating a science experiment is an important step to verify that your results are consistent and not just an accident.
  • For a typical experiment, you should plan to repeat it at least three times (more is better). For example, if you are trying to see if colored or non-colored candles will melt faster, plan on measuring the melting time for three colored candles and three non-colored candles.
  • If you are doing something like growing plants, then you should do the experiment on at least three plants in separate pots (that's the same as doing the experiment three times).
  • If you are doing an experiment that involves testing or surveying different groups, you won't need to repeat the experiment three times, but you will need to test or survey a sufficient number of participants to insure that your results are reliable. The general rule is that the more people you survey, the more reliable your results will be. Plan on surveying at least 25 people for good results. You can find more information about survey sample sizes at this site: How many survey participants do I need? 
After you finish your procedure, you need to make a complete list of all the materials you will need to perform your experiment. Make your materials list as specific as possible. You can use your list to make sure that you have all the supplies you need to get your project done on time.

Here is a Sample Materials List and Experimental Procedure You should type your materials list and procedure on Google Docs and share it with me using this email address: lheath@mpesd.com.

Do an experiment, analyze your data, and write a conclusion -- DUE MAY 5

Now, you're ready for the fun part of your project -- conducting an experiment! When you're conducting your experiment it is important to keep a few things in mind:
  1. Know what to do. Read and understand your experimental procedure. Are all of the necessary steps written down? Do you have any questions about how to do any of the steps? 
  2. Get a laboratory notebook for taking notes and collecting data.
  3. Be prepared. Collect and organize all materials, supplies and equipment you will need to do the experiment. Do you have all of the materials you need?
  4. Think ahead about safety! Are there any safety precautions you should take? Will you need adult supervision? Will you need to wear gloves or protective eye gear? Do you have long hair that needs to be pulled back out of your face? Will you need to be near a fire extinguisher?

During the experiment, follow the procedures you wrote exactly. If you need to make changes in the procedure (which often happens), write down the changes exactly as you made them. Make sure you are recording all your observations. Try to be as specific as possible and include measurements. You should record your data in a table that shows your results. Look here for a Sample Data Table. If you can, take pictures of your experiment, these will help you explain what you did and will come in handy when you're making your display board for the science fair.

You will need to submit a paragraph describing your observations and data table showing what you observed during your experiment. 

Analyze Data
Now that you have completed your experiment, you need to analyze your results. Some questions you should think about are: Did you get the results you had expected? What did you find out from your experiment?

When you analyze your data, summarize it by describing the mean (average), range, and median of your data. You also should review your data and decide how you would like to display it on a graph. Think about which type of graph would be best for your data -- bar graph, circle graph, or another type.

Here is a sample Excel spreadsheet that contains data analysis and a graph.

Write a Conclusion
Next, you will need to write a conclusion based on the the results of your experiment. Your conclusion only needs to be a few sentences long. Your conclusion should state whether your original hypothesis (what you thought would happen) was right or wrong and explain why you think you got the results you observed in your experiment. You may also want to describe whether you think your procedure worked well.

Here is a sample Conclusion.

Put together your final report and make a display board -- DUE MAY 5
Up to this point, you've done a lot of work on your science fair project, and you are almost done. Preparing your final report should not be too much extra work. You will just need to pull together all the work you've already done and make it into one report. Your final report will be several pages long, but most of the sections for your final report should be already written.

Your final report will include these sections:

Remember to check your report for correct spelling and grammar! You may want to have someone proof read it for you before turning in your final draft.

Display Board
If possible, type your final report on Google Docs, so you can add it to your digital portfolio. Create a copy of this Google Doc, to help you format your final report.

You've done all the hard work, now it's time for the fun part. Your final step is to prepare a display board that explains your project to others. Your board will be on display during the school science fair on May 8 for parents and other students to see. Click here for more details about creating your display board.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when making your display board:
  • Make your font large enough so people can read it from far away.
  • If you took pictures while you were conducting your experiment, make sure to add them to your board.
  • Describe your hypothesis, procedures, and results. It's also a good idea to include a graph or data table.
  • Less is more. You don't need to paste your entire final report to your board. Instead, summarize the key information that will help people understand your project.
  • BE CREATIVE! Use colors and pictures to make your board more exciting to look at.

Display Board Layout

You will also be required to make a presentation to the class about your project. Your presentation only needs to be 3-5 minutes long. During your presentation you will use your board to explain what you tested in your project and your results.