Pathfinder’s 2020 Virtual Science Fair

A science project is a wonderful way to meaningfully entertain kids at home during this time.

If you and your kids are interested in sharing your projects with a wider audience, please send photos or videos of projects – no kids – to holly.rikhof@comcast.net or ddockendorf@seattleschools.org by May 12th. We will post our virtual science fair on the Pathfinder PTSA website.

Project Guidelines:

  • No need to go to the store – you have the tools you need right at home. Look around your house as you design your experiment or model.
  • No need for a tri-fold display – layout panels on a table or the floor and send a picture.
  • Use appropriate caution with projects that produce fumes, smoke, fire or use blood or human tissues.
  • Any questions please contact Holly Rikhof (holly.rikhof@comcast.net).

Model or Investigation?:

A Model shows how something works and should include:

  • Your name
  • Title of your model
  • A detailed explanation of what you are showing with drawings, photos or a diagram with labels
  • A discussion of why what you’re showing is important or why it is interesting to you
  • Sources and Citations for your research

An Investigation starts with a question or prediction and should include:   

  • Your name
  • Title of your project
  • Your prediction (hypothesis) – what you are testing
  • Procedure/ Methods and Materials – how did you do your test?
  • Results/ Data – a description of what you saw during your test (charts, graphs, photos, or drawings)
  • Conclusion – The answer to your question/ did you prove or disprove your hypothesis?  What did you learn?  What mistakes did you make?          

To guide you through an investigation:

Here is a step by step walk thru of “an investigation” Science Fair project.

The Scientific Method:

Start with a question. Make a hypothesis. Design a test. Collect data. Make a conclusion. https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/science-fair/steps-of-the-scientific-method?gclid=Cj0KCQjw6sHzBRCbARIsAF8FMpWTTIgl7rLmQfIxWJt498zdVw_BZY9I4dXOfGehMJ1qZM_SN7Os7PIaAvO0EALw_wcB

Picking a Project

Science is all around us! You can make a project out of anything you’re interested in. Start by asking: what do you wonder? What are you curious about? What do you notice? Why is that?

What’s Your Hypothesis?

Make a prediction – a guess – as to what is expected to happen. Little kids almost always expect an explosion.

Designing a Method

This is the time to consider variables and controls. A variable is something that changes in your experiment. Only change one variable at a time. A control is something you don’t change, so that you can see the effect of your test.

For example: In the experiment above, the question is “do plants sneeze?”. Your Hypothesis is “probably”. Your test is to try to get a plant to sneeze by doing things to it that make humans sneeze – tickle with a feather, sprinkle with pepper. Your test involves careful observations where you see some set of criteria so that you know if what you expect to happen, happened – ie: the leaves twitch when a plant sneezes.

Your control is a plant you don’t do anything to. If you see leaf twitching on the control is it not because you made it sneeze. 

The variable is what you change.  Only test one variable at a time.  If you tickle the plant with a feather AND sprinkle the plant with pepper at the same time, you don’t know which variable made the effect. However, if you see the plant twitch after you tickle it, then you know tickling made the plant sneeze.  This is the key to a controlled experiment.

Collecting Data

Make a table, chart, graph, show pictures, or list your observations.  Here is where you prove to your audience you have evidence for your claims. In our example, I never saw any plant twitching as a result of the testing variables.

Making Conclusions

Using your evidence, prove a claim to your audience. This is where you reflect on your project – offer a reasonable explanation for your observations, what else could you have tried, if you were to do this again what would you do differently?

As in our example, I would conclude that I do not see evidence to support my hypothesis that “plants probably sneeze”. I could have tried coating the plant with dust to see if that worked, or maybe plants sneeze in a different way and I missed it!

Putting it all Together – Making a Presentation

Put your story together for an audience.  Show them what you saw. Convince them. Share your project results and ask good questions!

Be creative. Be curious. Enjoy the discovery – it’s not always what you expect it to be.

You be the Judge:

Here is a list of questions we use as a guide when we talk to kids at the science fair. A big part of the Science Fair is the communication of an idea and being able to explain what you did. These questions are designed to get your scientist to do some critical thinking. It would be great to share the answers to these questions in our virtual fair.

Questions to ask if the project is a model:

  • Do you think your project is a Scientific Investigation? or a Model?  Why?
  • If the project is a model: What are you trying to show?
  • What is interesting to you about your project?  Why did you choose to model this?
  • How did you make it?
  • What did you learn from your project?
  • What was fun about your project?  Would you recommend it to someone else?
  • Why do you think it’s important or useful for people to know about what you made a model of?
  • Are there any questions or things this project made you curious to learn more about in the future?
  • Did you learn anything else by doing the project that I would not know from your display?

Questions to ask if the project is an investigation:

  • Do you think your project is a Scientific Investigation? or a Model?  Why?
  • What was the question you were trying to answer with your project?  Did you have a prediction?
  • What is interesting to you about your project?  Why did you choose to ask this question?
  • How did you set up your test?  Why did you decide to do it that way? 
  • What did you prove/show? 
  • Did anything unexpected happen?
  • What did you learn from your project?
  • Is there anything you would have done differently if you were to do it again?
  • What was fun about your project?  Would you recommend it to someone else?
  • Why do you think it’s important or useful for people to know about what you discovered?
  • Did you learn anything else by doing the project that I would not know from your display?

Idea Resources:

www.sciencebuddies.org

www.stevespanglerscience.com

https://www.education.com/science-fair/