The science fair is an excellent way to develop thinking and a deeper understanding of scientific concepts! You have the opportunity to apply the scientific methods and process skills that are used in everyday decision making. National standards and our state standards that use reading, math, writing, and science are synthesized in projects and experiments. Have fun and make sure you practice safety standards!
Middle School Science Fair - A Work in Progress
What to expect. The three main parts -
Ready to Start? PRE-Experiment Stages
Follow the directions of your teacher. They may change the steps below or add different details.
1. Get Organized and Set your Topic
__Explore science fair resources and choose a topic based on your interest and resources available. Brainstorm very BROAD main ideas and fill in the details. You may test an invention as well! Set up a folder or log book that will eventually have all of your materials, data logs, research notes, diagrams, drafts, etc..
___ Organize - Start a folder or logbook where you will keep all of your drafts, rough copies etc. A composition book or spiral work great for this. Don't tear out pages even if you make mistakes or changes. The judges will want to see your thoughts and corrections. Use a folder to keep all of your loose papers like your timeline, research article, and rubric.
___Decide on a topic in science that interests you. Make sure you can get the research on the topic or materials to perform the experiment. If you are being innovative and trying to invent something that solves a problem, brainstorm solutions. Talk with your peers for additional ideas and get your parents input. Decide on what you will be comparing or testing. Decide how you will measure the results. Make sure you can find a way to do at least three trials.
___ Select and write a "Statement of the Problem" otherwise known as the Question or Statement of Purpose using one of the following formats. You may need to tweak it until it matches your experiment. Write a statement of the problem in question form. Answer the following questions on piece of notebook paper. Fill out any forms (to compete) to turn into your teacher.
1. What are you comparing? What is your independent variable or tested variable and the choices? (brands, types of...? )
2.What is your dependent variable? How will you measure your results (dependent variable) quantitatively? (use metric and SI)
3. Keep in mind - at least three controlled variables to make sure your experiment is fair, accurate, and replicable. Also keep in mind safety issues. Include a control so you have something to compare your results to and it will help you with analysis.
4. Level 5 students should include a "Control" if they can or if it applies. (A comparison for checking or verifying the results of an experiment where the factor being tested is not applied so that it may serve as a standard for comparison against a group where the factor is applied.)
Suggested Question or Statement Formats -
1) Which__ (I.V.)___ (verb) ___(description of action)___with these choices using a ____ (results/measurement)?
Example - Which laundry soap, Tide, Gain, or Publix brand, cleans better when removing ketchup stains using a cleansing scale of 1-5?
2) What is the effect of ___________on ____________ when measuring _____________?
(Tested Variable-What's tested) (effect on) (Results Variable - Measurable outcome)
Example - What is the effect of different coffee grinds (decafe and regular) on marigold plant growth by height in centimeters?
___Design your experiment - Start a Research Plan for your topic by identifying all of the variables and a control if possible. Keep a record of this information in your Science Fair Log book. The attached form will help you with Designing An Experiment. Also brainstorm possible questions you want to answer as your research...
___Start Bibliography and Research your topic by checking out books, printing articles, interviewing experts in the field etc.. You will need a bibliography that lists and numbers the three or more sources that are required. There is a specific format that is used so follow guidelines on the attachment below. Citation Maker is one helpful site for you to cut and paste the format . Use the MLA format for middle school. Click here : http://citationmachine.net/index2.php
____Read Information carefully and highlight articles when you find relevant details or new vocabulary words. You may need to reread some articles so make sure you write down your sources in your bibliography. (See above) As you read...
___Take notes of the most important and relevant information using an outline, two column notes, or note cards. Use the format for two column notes or for note cards given in the attachment at the bottom of this page. Put only a few facts on each card so that you can put them in a logical order later. Include definitions, quotes, history, components, safety items, how it is used in the real world, and of course the basic science of how this works!
___Write your OWN Research Paper - Use the information and notes to write your own paragraphs. Write the sentences in your own words or you will be plagiarizing which is illegal. It is claiming that someone else's work is your own.write in the past tense and use the third person (The scientist did or has learned) You may use a direct quote, but give that person credit. Some of the main ideas for your paragraphs are listed in the attachment at the bottom of this page. A sample of a Research paper rubric is attached below.
Include an introduction, a paragraph about real world application and conclusion paragraph, as well as paragraphs about things like basic science (definitions, what branch of science, simplest description of how it works), history, how it is made and what it is made of, tools and measurements, types, interesting facts, and how the tools work. End with how it impacts us or the application with careers, politics, society or economics.
Do not work ahead of your teacher.
3. Forms, Predictions, and Replicable Experiments
___Visit the official sites for specific rules, student handbook, winning project examples, display criteria etc. at http://www.societyforscience.org/isef/participate
___Take the "Forms Wizard" survey if you are a Level 4 or 5 student. It is found at http://apps.societyforscience.org/isef/students/wizard/index.asp Print out the forms that are required. Your teacher will help you obtain signatures and understand some of what is needed in class. These must be filled out before you do the experiment.
___ Write a specific hypothesis - Use the format of "If...(describe the action done to your Independent Variable), then...(what is the predicted outcome with the Dependent Variable) because...(scientific explanation based on research and experience)."
Example 1: If a comparison of the mass of back packs is done between students in 6th, 7th and 8th grades, then 8th graders backpacks will on average be heavier, because they have more information in their textbooks and so are heavier.
Example 2 : If you use different brands of laundry detergent (All, Cheer, Martha Steward) to remove a 3 cm2 grass stain on a white tshirt, then Martha Stewart Brand have the highest rank of cleaning because Martha Stewart Brand is more expensive and uses natural ingredients and has a rating of 8.5 on the consumer research websites.
___ Procedures- Start each numbered and replicable step with a verb, include how you will control the variables and do metric measurements. Make sure it is clear how you will repeat for three or more trials for validity. Include safety steps (include adult supervision if necessary). You also want to have a step(s) to show how you need to clean up. If another scientist wants to replicate your experiment, your steps should be clearly written and numbered so they are easy to follow!
Example : What type of seed will grow tallest in two weeks when planted with Scott's "Amazing Grow Soil", a radish, pumpkin or sunflower seed?
1) Gather materials.
2) Obtain adult supervision because of glass containers.
3) Measure out 20 ml of distilled water and place in three cleaned and empty baby food jars that have been labeled A,B, and C.
4) Cover with Scott's "Amazing Grow Soil" to the edge of the rim. Do not pack down the soil.
5) Poke a hole with the end of a pencil eraser and drop in Jar A the radish seed, Jar B the pumpkin seed, and Jar C the sunflower seed...
6) Repeat for two more trials and record results in logbook.
7) Clean up and wash hands thoroughly with soap.
____ Forms for safety and Level 5 competition use the "Rules Wizard" survey and print out necessary forms for your project using http://www.societyforscience.org/isef/rulesandguidelines Visit the ISEF rules and read the student handbook - http://www.societyforscience.org/isef/document.
Do not work ahead of your teacher.
4. Safety, Set Up and Experiments
___ Safety Concerns - have an adult supervise your experiment and help with anything that could hurt you, others, or property. If you are using human participants, make sure you have filled out an "Informed Consent" form and have a parent signature (Found on the ISEF Documents page). Your participants should know that they can stop at any time. Include these in your steps and bibliography. Your goal is to have informed consent.
____ Set Up a Control (if possible) - Remember a "Control" is something you use for a comparison to see if there are any other variables impacting your experiment. Examples - If you are testing which laundry soap cleans a stain the best, also test if water cleans as well. If you are testing how different amounts of disolved salt affect plant growth, test some without salt in the water. If you are testing how middle schoolers react to a survey, ask an adult to try out the survey as well. Record your measurements and observations on the same or on a separate data table.
___Revise Procedures - You can adjust the procedures to include safety, adult supervision, exact measurements of materials, etc. so that another scientist could replicate your experiment. Also include clean up steps and proper disposal of equipment or chemicals. Each step should be detailed and clear.
___Set Up Data Table - List your Independent/Manipulated Variables and your Dependent Variables and Trials on a chart. As you do your experiment, measure accurately and use metric units. Include quantitative results (number measurements in metric) and qualitative observations.
____ Celebrate! You have come a long way in a complicated process! Now you are ready to do what I think is the best part... the EXPERIMENT!
____ Observe and Measure - write down the qualitative observations/what you notice as well as your quantitative number/measurements. Draw pictures or take photographs of your results and procedures.Write down things that you realize are uncontrolled variables.
5. Post-Experiment Stage - Analysis, Presentation, Knowledge gained
___Calculations - Figure our the mean (average), range or differences between the "winner"/highest and the "loser"/lowest measurement. Do some comparisons. Look for outliers (info that doesn't seem to make sense or fit in). Your original data table will go in your log - even if it is messy.
____ Graph - Use your data table measurements to create a graph. One suggested website is http://nces.ed.gov/nceskids/createagraph/default.aspx where you input your info, title (which will show independent and dependent variables) etc. and it generates a graph for you. Remember a bar graph is used for comparison and a line graph is used for changes over time, such as plant growth. Include the averages in your graph or make a graph comparing averages for each independent variable.
____ Analysis - Next, write a summary paragraph that explains about your highest and lowest measurements, averages, outliers, etc.. Write another explanation that identifies any trends or patterns in your data using words like increase, decrease, gradual, how the control compared to what you tested, etc.. Keep all of these things in your log.
Example : " The average height of the alkaseltzer rocket for all 6 trials was 23.5 meters. The highest blast was 43 meters and occured when the wind was not blowing. There was an outlier that was not included because the launch was redone because there was only a height of 2 meters achieved. (We think the seal was not tight enough). The rockets' that used distilled water had a higher peak for all trials surpassing the height with tap water by 1.5 meters at the very least.
____ Application - This is an important part of the experiment! Write a paragraph that takes what you discovered and show how it could impact or connect with the real world. Consider how it could help people or improve something.
Example:" The results might help an ice cream vendor because know they know which ice cream melts fastest and they could put that in the coldest part of the freezer."
____ Acknowledgements - The easiest part of the experiment. Thank the people who helped you with the supplies, the experiment, the research, scientific understanding, etc.. : )
___ Recommendations - Write a paragraph about what you might do differently. If you were going to do this experiment again, what improvements would you make? Were any variables not kept fair? What would have made the results more valid or credible?
___Conclusion - The judges will focus on this looking for three things in this paragraph. Use high level vocabulary that shows you understand the basic science and the specifics of your experiment.
1. Restate your hypothesis briefly and indicate if it was supported or refuted.
2. Summary of data with averages.
3. Elaborate on your science explanations that explains your outcome or "winner" using scientific reasoning to explain the results.
____ Abstract - This will be required if you are a winning project going to the county fair, otherwise it is optional. This is a summary of your project that uses a specific type of form found at http://www.floridassef.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/2011abstract.pdf We will be working on this in class next week.
The top little box is your
Creative Title of Project
Student’s Name (s)
School Name, City and State, Country
The larger box includes a brief summary of your
a) Purpose of the experiment
Do not work ahead of your teacher.
5. Communicating Results and Competition
___Judging and Criteria - Grade yourself using the rubric. Fix anything to improve your score before you turn it in. Judges will be looking at the display, notebook, graph, abstract, and the level of scientific thought and knowledge. See the sample of a judges sheet attached at the bottom of this page.
___ Notebook and Log - Your final drafts for all of the parts above should be put into a notebook form. Come up with a creative title and cover page. Your notebook includes the items listed below. You can have more than one item on a page to save paper. Use the examples to model your information but do not copy. Feel free to write page numbers later by hand and make your lines straight. You may include your log (all your drafts and original measurements) in the back or as a separate folder/notebook. Make sure your name, period, teacher, grade, and school appear on the back of your notebook NOT the front.
Sample Table of Contents
Abstract ……………………………. . . . …… . . 1
Table of Contents………………………. . . . . . . .2
Purpose………………………………….. . . . .. . . 3
Research Report………………………… . . . . . 4-7
Hypothesis………………………………. . . . . . .8
Materials…………………………………. . . . . . .8
Procedures………………………………. . . . . . . .9
Data (Measurements) Chart & Observations. . .. .10-12
Data Analysis and Graph…………………….. . . 13
Conclusion………………………………. . . . . . .14
Application. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Recommendation………............................. . . . . . .. .15
Acknowledgements……………………… . . . . . 15
Bibliography……………………………… . . . . . 16
Photographs Cited .……………………… . . . . . 16
Log, (Forms, Research articles, Sloppy Copies, Drafts)….17+
___ Display - You may create different kinds of displays for the school fair. The county fair requires a large showboard. Only display a title, purpose or statement of the problem, hypothesis, procedures, data and analysis, conclusion, application and optional abstract. Serious competitors and scientists should follow the exact directions on the http://secondaryscience.pds-hrd.wikispaces.net/file/view/fair_display_rules.pdf. Attached at the bottom is "slide1" which is the diagram of a display. Your title should be a creative hook. Make sure everything is spelled correctly. If your teacher did not require an abstract, you do not have to put it on the board. (projects going to the county fair will be required to add the abstract in a frame in front) Your name, period, date, and science teacher should be on the back of the board.
TTMS School fair display options
1. Power point or video (PC compatible) with all the major components below
2. Mini showboard on construction paper with all the components below
3. Large showboard with all the components below (These will be on sale at TTMS starting next week for $5)
___ Grade yourself - Use the scale and rubric that your teacher provided and grade yourself honestly. If there is time, fix anything that needs to be improved. If you have followed directions, learned something, and put in effort, be proud of yourself!
___Presentations! - You will be sharing some of the basic components of your science fair with your class. Practice so that you can summarize the purpose, procedures and conclusion in 2-3 minutes. Make sure you know what the independent and dependent variables were for your project as well as how you kept things constant for the controlled variables!
GREAT JOB SCIENTISTS!!!
Stay tuned for information regarding the science fair at our school!