Science fair handbook (autosaved)


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Science fair handbook (autosaved)

  1. 1. Scott Middle School<br />Science Fair Project<br />Handbook<br />Mr. Blaschke 2011 Science Fair<br />The Basics<br />Before getting started on your science fair project, there is one important thing to keep in mind: Keep it Simple! Sometimes people think that a complicated science fair project will score higher. The opposite is actually true.<br />As an 8th grader you are expected to know how to plan, prepare, perform, critique, evaluate, and analyze an experiment using the scientific method.<br />Purpose, Hypothesis, Research, Experiment, Analysis, and Conclusion<br />The Research Question<br />A science fair project begins with the Research Question: “What if”, or “how will something be affected by something else?” The research question is the foundation for everything that follows with your project.<br />The Hypothesis or Prediction<br />A hypothesis is basically an educated guess. It’s a statement of what you think is going to happen with your experiment and why you think it will happen. A hypothesis should not be worded in a general way. For example, don’t use “temperature affects the growth of mold”, For your hypothesis. Instead, use something like “I expect that bread will mold faster at higher temperatures”. <br />Whatever your hypothesis is, make sure that you can prove it in a measureable way. In our moldy bread experiment, we can measure time and temperature. This is important for generating data.<br />Keep in mind that your experiment may disprove your hypothesis. There is nothing wrong with that, your hypothesis is just your best guess. In fact, some of the best science fair projects are the ones that have their hypothesis proven wrong!<br />The Materials<br />The materials used in your experiment are important because if anyone wants to test your research, they can see exactly what items you used. This will keep all testing the same.<br />The Procedure<br />The procedure is the step by step process that you will use to conduct your science experiment. The purpose of your procedure is to generate data which is the result of your experiment.<br />Your experiment will usually consist of three types of variables. The constants, manipulated variables, and a responding variable. For example in our moldy bread experiment the constants would be humidity, location, materials used. These are the things we are trying to keep the same for all samples. Our manipulated variable is temperature, the one thing we are changing intentionally. The responding variable is mold growth, which is what we are expecting to change according to the manipulated variable.<br />Remember to keep your procedure simple and highly focused. Your experiment should only have one Manipulated variable. Having more than one manipulated variable makes it very difficult to prove which variable is causing changes in your experiment. It also makes it nearly impossible to measure the effect of each variable. It’s imperative to keep it simple.<br />For example, in our moldy bread experiment, if we decide to do an experiment which varies the temperature and the moisture in the air, you really can’t tell how each is affecting the rate at which the mold is growing. It’s much better to keep all the conditions the same, and just vary the temperature of the moisture.<br />You should be able to list the steps of your procedure in sequential order or diagram them in a flow-chart. That way you or someone else, can reproduce and validate your experiment by following these exact same steps.<br />It’s important that you repeat your experiment several times, or create several batches of the same experiment. With only one test or sample, an unseen variable can affect the outcome of your experiment. However, with many samples or repetitions, you confirm the results each time you conduct the experiment. This will make your data far more accurate. Make sure you have plenty of time to generate enough data for the science fair.<br />The Results<br />The results are the data that you collected. The data must be objective and measureable. The results are usually always numeric in nature.<br />In our moldy bread experiment we wouldn’t say that “on the 15th day of the experiment there was a lot of mold on the bread”. Instead, we would write in our experiment notebook the “sample 3 had 95% of its surface covered in mold.” Using a Data Table is probably the easiest way to keep track of your data<br />Sample 145 degrees FSample 270 degrees FSample 3110 degrees FDay 50%0%15%Day 105%20%50%Day 1520%50%95%<br />After collecting all of the data, you should present in a way that is easy to visualize. Graphs are a great way to do this, and they can really help you draw a conclusion from your results. Nice looking graphs and charts are a key element of your science fair display! Make sure what you are trying to show with your graph is easily understood even from a distance.<br />The Conclusion<br />The conclusion is where your Research Question is answered using the results of your experiment. This is where you state whether your Hypothesis was proven correct, partially correct, or entirely wrong based on the data collected during your experiment. The conclusion is where you summarize what you learned. <br />You should also explain why you think things happened the way they did, and describe and problems that occurred that might have affected the outcome.  Finally, you need to discuss if there were questions that your research brought up, or further research that should be done because of your experiment.  For example, you might ask "how high does the temperature have to get before it begins to destroy mold."Remember, whether or not your original hypothesis is correct is not important.  What is important is what you learned from your research.  That's what makes doing a science fair project fun!<br />As an 8th grade student your science fair project is expected to be an investigation(an experiment):<br />Students who want to find out things as a scientist, will want to conduct a hands-on investigative experiment. While scientists study a whole area of science, each experiment is focused on learning just one thing at a time. This is essential if the results are to be trusted by the entire science community.<br />In an investigation, students:<br />Ask a testable question <br />Research the topic <br />Make a hypothesis about the outcome based on the research or their own knowledge <br />Design the investigation <br />Conduct the investigation <br />Collect Data <br />Make sense of the data and draw a conclusion <br />Present their findings for peer review <br />What is a Testable Question?<br />The key to a good and manageable investigation is to choose a topic of interest, then ask what is called a “testable question.” Testable questions are those that can be answered through hands-on investigation by the student. The key difference between a general interest science question and a testable question is that testable questions are always about changing one thing to see what the effect is on another thing.<br />Here are some examples of broader science questions and testable questions:<br />Easy Testable Questions Broad Questions (lead to science reports)Testable questions (lead to investigations)How do plants grow?What amount of water is best to grow tomatoes? or What type of soil is best to grow petunias? or What amount of sunlight is best to grow daffodils?What makes something sink or float?How well do different materials sink or float in water?How do rockets work?How does changing the shape of a rocket’s fins change its flight?How does the sun heat up water?Does the sun heat salt water and fresh water at the same rate?What happens when something freezes?Do different liquids freeze at the same rate?What makes cars move?How does the surface on which a car moves affect how fast it goes?How do batteries work?Which type of battery lasts the longest?What makes a magnet attract things?Does temperature have an effect on a magnet’s strength?Why does ice melt?What is the best insulator to keep ice from melting?<br />More Complex Testable Questions Broad Questions (lead to reports)Testable questions (lead to investigations)How do lubricants work?Which combination of lubricants will work best on a bicycle wheel?What can affect animal behaviors?What is the effect of a low-level electrical field on the movement of fruit flies?What happens when water expands as it freezes?How much force is needed to keep water from expanding as it freezes?What is soap?Which detergent removes stains the best?What is bread mold?What conditions keep bread mold from growing on bread?What do birds eat?What type of food and feeder will attract the most cardinals?<br />Science Fair Presentations<br />The science fair experience is part process, part product. Some would argue that the process is more important than the product—that it is in the hands-on experimentation, engineering, and trial and error that the most valuable learning takes place. But both are valuable components of the overall learning experience, and both matter during final judging.<br />At the end of the day, the display board is the ultimate product. It tells the story of the student’s investigation and is their one chance to sell it to the world (well, at least to teachers and judges). It chronicles their hard work, documents real data, and breaks down complex scientific concepts into basics that anyone who visits their display at the fair can understand. It is something for students to be proud of and keep forever.<br />Although the presentation comes at the end of the 3-week timeline, it should not be an afterthought. Students should keep it in mind as they document key steps along the way—with photographs, sketches and handwritten notes. That way, when it comes time to post things on their display board, they’ll have more than enough to choose from. The value of the presentation should not be underestimated. After weeks of hard work, it all comes down to a few minutes—that’s how long a student has to captivate each group of visitors at their booth. And remember this: The display is the first and only thing the judges see. First impressions matter!<br />Science Fair Presentation Dos and Don’ts<br />Do<br />For any drawings or written text, start with pencil, not pen.<br />Sketch a rough layout on a piece of paper before pasting up your display.<br />Leave yourself plenty of time.<br />Gather all of your material and organize it into categories.<br />If you forgot to photograph each step of your procedure, consider re-staging it now for documentation. (Some are better than none!)<br />Consult a book or website about graphic design. See how professionals use a grid format with columns and rows for effective layouts.<br />Study examples of winning displays in science fair books for ideas. However….Be original!<br />Come up with a catchy title and display it prominently.<br />Include all required categories and content on your display.<br />Tell the story of your science project in a logical, easy-to-read manner.<br />Arrange items from left to right, from top to bottom.<br />Space elements evenly across your layout, to achieve a balanced, consistent look.<br />Draw attention to the most interesting parts of your project with color and graphics. Visitors and judges will zero in on this first thing.<br />Use black or dark colors for type.<br />Mount black-and-white text blocks on colored construction paper for contrast.<br />Make type large enough to read from four feet away: As a general rule, use 24 pt type for headings, 16 pt type for text blocks.<br />Choose a simple font that is easy to read. You may want one font for headings and another for body text, but make sure they are both easy to read. (Easy to read fonts include: Arial, Comic Sans, Tahoma, Verdana)<br />Use subheads and bullet points rather than long paragraphs of dense text.<br />Label all graphs, charts, and tables. On graphs, make sure you label the X and Y axes.<br />Write descriptive captions for photos.<br />Proofread and double- and triple-check all text before sticking it on your display board.<br />Avoid clutter.<br />Don’t<br />Leave your display until the last minute.<br />Forget to spell-check and proofread!<br />Write or draw directly on the board.<br />Use too many fonts, or fancy fonts that are hard to read.<br />Display photos without captions.<br />Go crazy with colors. A few bright colors are good to accentuate key elements and add pizzazz. But stick to a handful and keep it professional.<br />Cover every inch of your display; remember to leave some breathing room (what graphic designers call “white space”) between blocks of text and graphics.<br />Use white school glue to stick thin paper to your board, or it may ripple.<br />Be afraid to get creative. Science is not dull; it’s dynamic!<br />Glue any 3-D objects to the display board at home. Wait until you transport the board to the fair, and do it there.<br />Forget to pack a box of supplies to keep handy for last-minute repairs at the fair.<br />Chew gum!<br />Forget to smile, look visitors and judges in the eye, be polite, and congratulate the winners.<br />How to Deliver a Good Oral Presentation<br />For many students, this is the most nerve-wracking, if not terrifying, bit of the entire experience. You will be paired up and take turns being mock audience members. You will also present in class to help prepare you for the fair. Be respectful listeners and give examples of helpful questions to ask. <br />Your Parents can help by making themselves available to listen and watch practice presentations. The week before, come up with questions to get accustomed to the question-and-answer format. Make it fun, rather than stressful. <br />Before the science fair:<br />Make sure your oral presentation has a good introduction and conclusion. In addition to framing the presentation, this provides a natural way to ease in and out of the serious scientific report. You’ll be able to speak in friendlier manner and add some of your own personality to the presentation. (But not too much personality. This is a science fair after all, not a comedy show—keep it professional.) <br />Practice, practice, practice. Practice in front of the mirror, in the shower, whenever you have time and wherever you see fit. Ask for parents or relatives to take turns listening. If no one’s available, a teddy bear or family pet makes a great captive audience. <br />Ask a friend to practice with you. Take turns listening and asking questions. <br />Practice in front of your display board and with any additional visual aids. Practice pointing to relevant features, and make sure your audience can see what you’re pointing to. <br />Time your oral presentation to ensure it’s within the time limit allowed. <br />At the science fair:<br />Be yourself. (Scientists are regular people too.) <br />Thank the judges for coming to learn about your project. (They are volunteers.) <br />Make eye contact with judges and visitors. Maintain eye contact when not reading notes. <br />Avoid saying “uhm” and “like.” <br />Don’t chew gum. <br />Keep a drink of water on hand; it’s okay to take a sip if your voice gets hoarse. <br />Don’t talk too quickly. If you catch yourself racing ahead, take a deep breath and slow down. <br />Pay attention to your posture and body language. Stand up straight and try not to fidget. <br />Be serious, but not stiff. <br />Use gestures to emphasize the most important points. <br />Be honest—if you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s okay to say so. Scientists will tell you they don’t know all the answers either. <br />Show enthusiasm for your subject! <br />Be sure to thank the judges again at the end of your presentation. <br />Judge’s Criteria for Science Fairs<br />Judging worksheets and scoring systems vary from fair to fair, but most follow similar criteria. The use of scientific methodology is the common denominator at the top of everyone’s list. Students are judged on their understanding of how well they used scientific methods to develop and conduct their project. Both inventions and investigations involve planning, careful investigation, collection of data, and making sense of the data at the end.<br />Other factors include ability to clearly convey scientific findings, demonstrated knowledge of the chosen topic, and degree of effort and difficulty involved. Judges may also give points for originality, accuracy, thoroughness, neatness, and presentation skills (oral and visual).<br />Scientists almost always write up formal reports and publish them. You will be writing up a lab report based upon the same rubric we have used all year long. Required reading of reports will lengthen your presentation time so these will be turned in prior to your presentation at the fair. The display board and the student should provide enough information for the judges to go by.<br />What Are Judges Looking For?<br />Along with the standard factors judges will look for certain qualities like curiosity, enthusiasm for one’s subject, and willingness to try new things in the name of scientific discovery. Though not as easy to measure, these are high in importance, impress many judges, and should not be underestimated. <br />A copy of the rubric that the judges will have will be given to you so you know what to expect.<br />Final Check List:<br />Did you remember to<br />Include every required category (hypothesis, Procedure, Materials, etc)<br />Label every chart, graph, and illustration<br />Provide a caption for every photograph?<br />Proofread every word on your display board? Twice??<br />Ask yourself . . .<br />Is the type large enough to read from afar? Stand 5 feet away to check.<br />Are lines straight? Are text blocks and graphs properly aligned? (You can re-do a section by covering mistakes with matching colored paper and pasting new text and graphics over that. This time use a ruler!)<br />Does the display look overly crowded with information? If so, consider removing some less important items and displaying them creatively on the table instead.<br />Are there any empty spaces on the board? If your layout looks uneven, consider adding some items to balance it out. <br />Did you follow the do’s and don’ts?<br />Do you have all of your supplies?<br />Did you complete your lab report?<br />Have you packed a “repair kit” of supplies for any last-minute touch-ups at the fair?<br />Have you presented this to your parents as a run-thru?<br />