Parents

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The 2017 STEAM Expo is scheduled for February 24, 2017 @ IJ Holton Intermediate School.

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Many parents want to support their child in completing a science fair project, but aren’t sure how. This portion of this website is designed to help parents understand the science fair process so they can better help their child with completing a project.

It may also be helpful for parents to also review the information provided on the student’s page of this website as well. There is a lot of background information provided there for students that can also aid you in assisting your child with their project.

Please remember – this is your child’s project. You are here to guide them, not do it for them. They may not be able to do all of the steps provided here, their board may not be perfect (or even pretty), or there may be things they don’t completely understand the first time through. That is ok. This is a learning process and they have to start somewhere. Each time they participate in the science fair, they will improve and learn new things. The goal is that they learn, develop their self-confidence, and explore science in a hands-on manner, not that they win first place. Allow them the struggle that comes with the learning process. They will be better for it.

Helping Your Student

Below are some basic steps to help you get started this this process and a general calendar of when to complete each step. We go into more detail about each step later on this page.

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General Calendar for Completing a Science Fair Project
Learn About Scientific Method Before January 13, 2017 - This information is needed to complete the registration form
Purchase Laboratory Notebook
Pick a Project
Complete the Regisration Form Due by January 13, 2017 for the STEAM Expo - This form should be submitted to your child's teacher at school
Conduct Background Research The bulk of this should be done before beginning the experiment, but is generally on-going throughout development of a science fair project. This should be completed before building the board.
Purchase supplies and complete experiment Check the experiment for information on how long it will take to complete. It is best to have your experiment completed about 3 weeks before the science fair to allow time to review the results and build the board.
Analyze results and draw conclusions Complete approximately 2 weeks before the science fair.
Build board and practice presenting Begin about 2 weeks before the science fair. STEAM Expo scheduled for February 24, 2017.

STEP 1: Help your child learn about the scientific method

The scientific method is the process by which scientists investigate the word around them. It is very similar to basic problem solving, but it is more structured to guide the manner of the investigation. Additional information about the scientific method for you and your child is provided on the student’s page of this website. A video on the scientific method and designing an experiment is provided below to help explain experimental setup to parents.

STEP 2: Purchase a laboratory notebook

Purchase a notebook your child can use to record all of the information about their experiment. Preferably, this notebook is not spiral bound. A standard composition notebook will work well. The picture below is an example of this kind of notebook. If you are able to find one with graph paper, that makes it easier to draw tables. These cost about $2 at your local store.

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Your child should write down all of their information about their experiment in this notebook. This information includes, but is not limited to:

  • New vocabulary words or notes from conducting background research for their experiment
  • Their hypothesis
  • The experimental procedure
  • All of the observations/results from their experiment
  • Copies of photos from their experiment
  • Their conclusions
  • If they reject or accept their hypothesis and why
  • Any references used to research/complete their experiment

Be sure your child follows the following rules when recording information in their laboratory notebook:

  1. Write neatly and in pen.
  2. Date each page of the notebook.
  3. Label the information provided at the top of each page. For instance, they might label the top of a page “Background Research” and include a list of all of the new vocabulary words on this page. On the page labeled “Results,” a student would include their observations and data from their experiment. An example of this is provided in the image below:
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  4. If you make a mistake, draw a single line through the mistake and write the correct information down. Do not scribble through the mistake. The image below demonstrates the right and wrong way to correct a mistake in the notebook.
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  5. Organize information for their experimental results in a table to make it easy to follow. The following video will demonstrate how to setup a data table in the laboratory notebook.
  6. Include all of the information from their experiment in their notebook. Don’t leave anything out or write it in another place. It is easy to lose or forget information that isn’t included in the notebook.

Your child will want to bring their laboratory notebook with them to the science fair so the judges can review it. This is not required for grades 3 and 4 (but is highly recommended) for the local STEAM Expo. It is a requirement for the Regional Science Fair.

STEP 3: Help your child pick a project and conduct background research on their topic It is important your child picks a project they are interested in completing. They may come up with an idea on their own or they may need help selecting a project. The internet is a useful tool for developing or finding a science fair project idea. Be sure the experiment has testable variables. Demonstration experiments like the volcano and tornado in a bottle are fun to do, but they don’t contain variables. The video provided with STEP 1 about the scientific method outlined what variables are and provided an example of an experiment with independent and dependent variables.

Be sure to read through the experimental procedure with your child. Look up any new vocabulary words your child doesn’t already understand and write down their meaning in the laboratory notebook.

STEP 4: Help your child complete the registration form

You will need to register your child for the STEAM Expo. A copy of the registration form can be found at the link below. Additional information about when this form is due and who to contact with questions can be found on this form. Your child should submit this form to their teacher at school.

2017 STEAM Expo Registration Form

STEP 5: Help your child purchase the supplies and complete the experiment

Purchase all of the supplies listed on the experimental procedure and complete the experiment. Be sure to record all of the data the student collects and observations they make about their experiment in their laboratory notebook. More information on how to collect data can be found on the student’s page of this website under “What did you see happen? – Collecting data.”

STEP 6: Analyze the results of the experiment and draw conclusions on what the data means

The student will need to not only be able to describe what they did and what happened, but will also be able to explain WHY their results occurred. They will need to demonstrate an understanding of how their results tie to the concept their experiment covers.

For instance, if a student is trying to determine which plant fertilizer works best, they will want to explain WHY a participate fertilizer worked the best. This will involve looking at the ingredients in each fertilizer and comparing them to the nutrients plants need to grow. This may require them to complete additional internet research on their topic of interest after the experiment is complete.

Once they understand what their results mean, they should decide if they reject or accept their hypothesis. If they reject their hypothesis, it means their experimental results do not support their hypothesis. If they accept it, it means their experimental results do support their hypothesis.

STEP 7: Build a science fair board and practice explaining the project to others

The final step involves the student building their board and practicing explaining their project to others. If your child participates in the Austin Public Schools STEAM Expo, a cardboard trifold board will be provided to them by the school free of charge. These boards can also be found at your local big box or craft stores. Be sure to check with the school or science fair organizer to see if there is required size for this board before purchasing one.

Other supplies your child may need to build their board includes:
Scissors Stickers or decals
Glue stick Construction paper
Photographs of the experiment Glitter
Ruler Spray paint
Markers Large Letters for the experiment title
Other art supplies to decorate the board

All of the information from their board should be typed or neatly written. It is recommended this is done on a separate piece of paper and then glued to the board. The local library has computers and printers available if you don’t have one at home.

Your child should practice explaining their experiment to LOTS of other people. This will help them become comfortable with explain their project to other people. If they have a partner, they should decide who will explain what parts of the project. Each child should present about an equal amount of the project. They should be able to explain:

  • How they came up with their idea
  • The general scientific concept that applies to their experiment
  • What their hypothesis is
  • What the variables are
  • What they did during their experiment
  • What their results are
  • What their results mean
  • If they accept or reject their hypothesis and why

More information on how to building a board and practice presenting to others can be found on the student’s page of this website under “Tell Others What You Found – Building Your Board.” The link below will provide information about Dos and Don’ts for the science fair.

Science Fair Dos and Don'ts

Science Fair Mentoring Project at the Austin Public Library

There are several opportunities for your student to get some instruction and assistance with their science fair project at the Austin Public Library.

Need access to a computer? The library has computers and printers available for students to use to research and type up their results. Please bring money to pay for the copies. You can also check out a Chrome Book and wi-fi hot spot for use in your home (Limited availability. First come, first serve).

Saturday Science Experience

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Future Saturday Science Experience dates set for January 14 and February 11, 2017. All of the events discussed above are held in the large meeting room at the Austin Public Library.

These activities are designed to help students learn about the scientific method, how to form a hypothesis, and guide them through the process of participating in the science fair. I

Science Fair Boot-Camp for Parents

Want to help your child with their science fair experiment but not sure how? Come to our Science Fair Boot-Camp for Parents and find out how to support your student. We will take you through the process, teach you about the scientific method, and introduce you to resources designed to help you and your child. More information about this event is provided at left. All of the events discussed above are held in the large meeting room at the Austin Public Library.

Science Fair Mentoring Project at the Elementary Schools – Neveln and Banfield

Mentors are available to work with students at Neveln and Banfield Elementary Schools in Austin. Students who participate in programs at Neveln and Banfield Elementary Schools:

  • Work in pairs with a mentor to complete a science fair project. Mentors complete an orientation and must pass a background check with Austin Public Schools. Mentors are volunteers from the community and include educators, scientists, and Riverland students.
  • Select their project from a list of tested experiments and complete all work on their project at the school.
  • Are provided with all of the supplies necessary to complete their project at no cost to the family.
  • Have the opportunity to build positive relationships with adults in the community.

You can access a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about this portion of the project at the links below:

FAQ – English

FAQ – Spanish

Neveln Elementary School

This program is open to all 3rd and 4th grade students at Neveln Elementary School. Registration forms to participate at Neveln are typically due at the end of October or beginning of November. These forms are sent home with students 1-2 weeks before they are due. The schedule for this year’s program is provided below:

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Banfield Elementary School

This program is currently open to only 26 students at Banfield Elementary School. These students were selected based on teacher recommendations regarding need and benefit to the student. Mentoring at Banfield occurs during the school day based on when students and mentors are available to meet. Below is a schedule of the mentoring activities at Banfield:

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