The science fair is one of the best teaching strategies I have encountered after almost 20 years of schooling and 7 years of teaching.
- It teachers the scientific method and project management
- It allows student choice and parent involvement
- Student work is seen by people other than the teacher
However, I have found that many science teachers do not require science fair; it is too much work, parents do the project, the kids procrastinate, the students produce bad work, etc. So teachers offer it as extra credit which means that the two ends of the bell curve participate (top achievers who do anything, and bottom achievers who think it will be easier than doing regular work).
The strategy that has worked for me is to assign science fair in September and require students to turn in pieces at a time. See the example timeline attached. I also talk about it in class and get the kids to think about what makes a good project. I have found that if you can get students to do science fair 2-3 years in a row, they finally get the scientific method and how to write a lab report. It also can create a school culture around science fair. Science fair awards are great publicity and serve as another data point besides standardized testing to prove your program is effective. I have attached a zip file with lots of word documents and a few powerpoints. The timeline and guidelines are attached separately as well. Do you require science fair? Did you require science fair? Check out the materials and let me know what you think.