October 1998 // Volume 36 // Number 5 // Tools of the Trade // 5TOT1

Previous Article Issue Contents Previous Article

A Student's Guide to Keeping the Science in Your Science Project

Keeping the Science in Your Science Fair Project provides students,4-H'ers, and other youth with an easy, step-by-step approach to understanding how to use the scientific method. This publication not only shows them how nearly everything done involves science, it also presents guidelines, examples and instructions to improve chances of producing a high-quality science project.

Robert D. Williamson
Extension Specialist - Natural Resources
Internet address: robertw@ncat.edu

Ellen P. Smoak
Extension Specialist - Textiles and Apparel
Internet address: smoak@ncat.edu

North Carolina A&T State University
Greensboro, North Carolina


Interest in producing an award-winning science fair project is growing. As a result, local Cooperative Extension offices receive many requests from elementary, middle, and high school students for help with science fair projects. There are good reasons for this growing interest. Student success at the local level can lead to more recognition and an even greater feeling of achievement in regional, state, or national events.

Participation in science fairs is rewarding because nearly everything we do -- from cooking to health care to planting a garden -- involves science. Moreover, once a student masters the use of the scientific method, they understand the logic behind a significant decision-making process. This process allows the students to see that there are no wrong ideas, wrong experiments, wrong results, wrong conclusions, or wrong answers.

However, the mere mention of a science fair often causes many Extension agents and parents to cringe. Frequently, Extension agents do not have publications on hand for inquiring callers, and, feeling alone and helpless, parents see before them images of late-night gluing and repetitive trips to the library or educational supply stores.

Science fair apprehension can be especially potent when teachers expect a detailed experiment, rather than a simple demonstration or model of a scientific nature. In this case, students should use the scientific method.

A Helpful Publication

If you receive a request for assistance on a science fair project, don't panic! The authors have prepared "A Student's Guide to Keeping the Science in Your Science Project." Adaptable for all ages, this guidebook shows a very basic step-by-step approach to follow when setting up a science fair project. The scientific method, a series of steps used to answer questions and solve problems, is the guidebook's focal point. The scientific method includes five essential components: purpose, hypothesis, research, experimentation, and conclusion. This decision-making process is routinely used in the scientific community and is a key secret to producing a high-quality science fair project.

The guidebook is a valuable tool for students to use when preparing their first science fair project. The publication not only shows them how nearly everything done involves science, it also presents guidelines, examples, and instructions on how to improve chances for completing a successful project. Furthermore, the guidebook outlines an actual award-winning project to follow. Topics covered in the guide include: Getting Started; Decision Time; Watch Your Variables; Is It Time To Experiment?; Collect Your Data; Describe Your Results; and Ten Steps To A Winning Science Fair Project.

Since being released, over 3,500 copies of the publication have been used by students, parents, 4-H agents, and other youth educators in North Carolina and 15 other states. To obtain a copy of "Keeping the Science in Your Science Fair Project," contact the authors at the Cooperative Extension Program, NCA&T State University, P.O. Box 21928, Greensboro, NC 27420 (telephone 336- 334-7956) or e-mail robertw@ncat.edu or smoak@ncat.edu. Additional information can also be accessed from http://www.ag.ncat.edu/extension/programs/dte/index.htm