At just about any Science Fair, you see projects that are absolutely perfect! They have perfect procedures, perfect results, and perfect project boards. Unfortunately, sometimes these projects are examples of perfect plagiarism. They are either copied from a published project or are actually the parents’ work. These students totally get robbed of the opportunity to use their creativity and critical thinking.
Science Fair organizers are in a position to foster students’ development of STEM skills. There are a number of ways to align your fair with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Science & Engineering Practices. We encourage you to communicate with families and staff about your expectations for students to demonstrate these critical skills.
Here are a few tips for fostering skills development and innovation at your school’s Science & Engineering Fair:
- Clearly define the mission of your Science Fair and be sure it is front and center, always.
- Provide a Science Fair student handbook that explains what project success looks, feels and sounds like.
- Develop assessment rubrics that assess skills, such as creativity, problem-solving, communication, and teamwork.
- Share the assessment rubrics with students so that they can use them as guides.
- Allow projects that follow methods other than “The” Scientific Method, which does not resonate with all kids. Examples of different types of projects are Inquiry, Engineering, Computer Science, Case Studies, etc.
- Explain what plagiarism is and is not and how to use published projects as a starting point for students to explore beyond, tapping into their own creativity, and problem-solving skills.
- Prepare your judges to ask questions that help students’ explain the development of their skills.
- Provide students with awards that reward their mastery of the same skills that you assess them on.