The start of the school year may have looked pretty different than years past, with some students virtual and others hybrid, that the thought of facilitating a science fair probably seemed unthinkable. Hybrid students are unable to touch lab equipment and virtual students are home, how could you possibly put on a science fair?

While the pandemic poses some challenges, science fairs are a part of independent project-based learning, so they are attainable. Here we’ll take a look at the challenges, what to consider before planning, as well as give you strategies to conduct a successful science fair regardless of whether students are in person or at home.

What are the Current Challenges?

Because of the pandemic and school closures, conducting an in-person science fair would be challenging. First, most schools offer remote and hybrid learning which means not all students are in school at the same time or not at all. Second, COVID-19 restricts students from touching lab equipment, which the majority of students may need for their projects. Lastly, science fairs are usually a room full of tri-fold boards that present students’ projects. However, during a pandemic you must limit the number of students you can have in a classroom, which poses another challenge.

Things to Consider Before Planning

A science fair doesn’t have to be complicated because we are going through a pandemic. Here are a few things to consider while planning.

Will all students participate?

Will you just have your class(s) participate in the science fair or will you open it up to the entire school? This decision will also depend upon if the fair will be in-person with hybrid students or virtual, which leads us to the next question.

Will it be in-person or virtual?

Whether students are remote learning or hybrid, science fair projects are asynchronous which means they are done independently. You must decide if you want the hybrid students to present their projects in-person or if you will have a virtual science fair where all students showcase their work online through a platform like Flipgrid or a Google Meet.

Will students choose their own project, or will you give you them options to choose from?

If you tell students “We’re having a science fair!” the majority of them will Google “science experiments” and you’ll end up having twenty of the same generic projects. However, if you give them a topic or theme to follow or ask them to make a list of what they are interested in learning more about, then you’ll probably see more of a variety of science fair projects.

Try challenging students to dig deeper and look into the COVID-19 pandemic for a project idea, such as how disinfectants work, how vaccines can be used, or herd immunity and epidemics. When you use real-world problems that students are actually facing in their real life, they will be more apt to participate.

Strategies for a Successful Science Fair

To ensure your science fair goes smoothly follow these tips.

Selecting a Science Project

The first step is for students to select their science project. Science Buddies has over 1,000 project ideas students can research based on student interest. Since we are going through a pandemic, there is even a Google Classroom integration on their website which makes it quite easy for teachers to assign and manage assignments or announcements.

Create a Project Timeline

It’s essential that students have a timeline. Try and break the project into several steps and due dates which will help students stay on track through the course of their project. Working through these steps can help students organize their work too. You can also correlate this timeline with your teacher check-ins.

Set-up Teacher Check-ins

Set up regular check-ins where you can see how students are progressing. Students can use this time to ask questions or voice any concerns they may have. Also, offer Zoom or Google Meet hours where remote and/or hybrid students can check-in with you several times during the creative and later stages of their projects. These check-ins are essential to maintaining structure. The more structured you are with students, the easier it will be for them to complete their projects in a timely manner.

Set-up the Fair

The majority of teachers will most likely settle on a virtual fair because it’s the safest approach. In doing so, students will have to be creative with how they will present their projects. Luckily, there are many digital tools for students to choose from. For example, students can use Google Slides or a Power Point Presentation to mimic a trifold board then deliver their presentation on Flipgrid or over a Zoom call or Google Meet.

Being remote or hybrid doesn’t mean you have to miss out on independent science projects. In fact, science fairs can help spark a love for science that students didn’t even know they had. As you can see, it doesn’t have to be complicated; you can easily design it where students make use of the digital tools they are familiar with. So, before you decide to shut the idea down, remember these projects can make a successful semester of STEM learning.