Perplexing Questions

The Science of Science Fairs: Science fair organizers, teachers, and students are provided with resources to help with science fairs based on my scientific research of science fairs.

The science fair is a wonderful opportunity for children and adolescents to get first-hand experience with what it is like to be a scientist. I consult with school, regional, and state science fairs. One of our primary goals has been to make judges' ratings valid (really measuring good science) and reliable (different judges rate similarly) so that judging is fair and students get the best possible feedback. As a developmental psychologist, I study students and judges. One outcome is a judging system that is intuitive for judges, more reliable that the rubric used at ISEF We also created a way to combine judge's ratings as fairly as possible, so scores reflect students' achiveements rather than happening to have "strict" or "lenient" judges. Below are various materials you can use for your science fair at any level (e.g,. school, regional, state, national or international). I am always looking for more collaborators. Please let me know if use these materials; I appreciate the feedback from fair organizers, judges, and students. I may be able to help you develop new materials and I am interested in working with science fair organizers to study how children learn and grow as they participate in science fairs over the years. If you're curious. My research goes beyond practical questions of improving the science fair to address if inquiry learning experiences, like the science fair, help children uncover a deeper conceptual understanding of science? Do the kinds of experiences their teachers provide make a difference in how they understand science outside the classroom? Part of my inspiration in psychological theory and part is practical, from my experiences teaching elementary, middle, and high-school students.

Science Fair Judge Manual: [pdf]: guide explaining for judges the dimensions to consider and the benchmarks to use for giving particular scores on each dimension

Science Fair Judge Rubric: [pdf]: 1-page summary for judges to carry during the fair

Science Fair Judge Scoring Sheet: [pdf]: 1-padge score sheet for judges to carry during the fair; there is also an MS Word version to allow organizers to pre-type judge and student information

Science Fair Organizer Manual: [pdf]: how to enter judges' scoring and how to interpret composite scores

Science Fair Data: [zip xls]: easily enter judges' scores and automatically determine overall project rankings. Note that this file is almost 6Mb and make take some time to download.

Statistics for Science Fair Students [pdf]: 1-page summary of a lesson that I gave for local high school students on how to use statistics to analyze data for science fair projects. Among on-line statistics calculator webpages that are clear for data entry and result interpretation are:

Science Fair Directory: Find international and state science fairs links. Most states link to the regional science fairs whose winners get to compete after winning school science fairs.