Thursday, March 2, 2017

Organizing a Successful Science Fair

Your committee has worked hard to advertise the school science fair.  You worked so hard that enrollment has increased.  Now you need to figure out how to organize the night of the fair.  If your school or district is like mine the fair is in the evening.  We need to set up the gym and register projects in a short time.  Then we need to fit judging into a 2 ½ hour block.  This takes organization and strategy. 

I would like to share with you what our science fair committee has created.  Here is the secret.


Our fair gets between 70-80 projects a year.  The fair is for K-5th Grade.   This year we have 80 projects give or take a few.  Here is what we do.

Supplies Needed

Bright Colored Copy Paper:  yellow, orange, green, white, blue, pink
Tablecloths to match each color.
2 Grade level signs in their color.
Sticky labels in the colors.
Binder Clip for each project
Project sign-in sheets for each grade level.
Science Fair Buttons
Clip Boards for Judges
Name Tags
Directions for Judges.

I know it sounds like a lot, but I will take you through it.

Set-Up the Fair

Copy your judge’s forms for each student on the correct colored paper.  Kindergarten forms on yellow paper.  1st grade on orange paper and so on.  Write the students names on the judge’s forms ahead of time.  Each project is judged twice.  So fill out two judging forms for each project.  
Do not number ahead of time.  You will always get no-shows.  Numbering ahead of time creates chaos for the judges.  They will be looking for project 3 and they may not find a project 3.  Number projects as they register.  This is so important.

On each colored sticky label number out 5 sticky labels for each project.  Do this ahead of time.  Example:  1-1 is 1st-grade project 1.  3-4 is 3rd-grade project 4.  Make 5 of each.  Lots of labels, but they will come in handy.

Organize the number of tables you need for each grade level.  Place the correct color tablecloth on each table for the grade.  If kindergarten is yellow and you need 3 tables you would have 3 yellow tables.  Easy.  Now use your first numbered sticker to place on the tablecloth where the projects will go.  Just stick one sticker on the spot on the table.  Our tables fit 3 projects, so my first table gets labeled with k-1, k-2, and k-3.  Then I label the next table.

At the front of the room set-up several tables for registration.  Tape the colored sign for each grade level to the front of the table.  It will make it easy for parents and students to see.


Place the sign in sheet for each grade at the correct table.  On the sign in sheet have the student's names listed and columns for project number, judging score 1, judging score 2, and total score.  Have binder clips at each table.  Organize the judging sheets so that you can see the names of the students.  Each project at our fair is judged twice, so we have two for each student.  Remember all colors match.  Yellow judging form, yellow sticker, yellow tablecloth. 

When a student comes up and gives their name this is what you do.

1.      Assign them their project number by taking the next set of stickers. 

2.     Place one project number on the sign in sheet by their name.

3.     Place one project number on the back right corner of their project.

4.     Place a project number on each of their judging forms.

5.     Clip the judge’s forms to the back of the student’s board.

6.    Give the student a science fair button to wear.  Makes them stand out.

7.     Take the student to the spot that has their matching project number.  It will be easy to find because if 2nd grade is green you know to go to the green tables.

Finish registering all students in the same way.  Make sure you have enough people to help register.  It is good to have one person sign them in and then another person that escorts them to their area.  When registration is done give the head judge the sign-in sheets.  They will use that to record the judging scores.


We have a separate judge’s room (Teachers Lounge).   When judges walk in have them sign in and add their address.  This is so you can send thank you notes.  Sit clipboards out with their judging assignments and directions attached.  Pre-make all name tags.  I like to make my judges look professional.  I also want them to feel very welcomed. 

We provide dinner and dessert for our judges.  Many come straight from work.  We do a sign-up for donations of food and have a deli tray.  If your budget is tight see if a local deli will donate a deli tray or sandwiches.  Sometimes we have potluck soups.  It is up to you.  We want to make it nice, so we skip the pizza.  Have lots of bottled water. 

I also sit out sample judging forms so they can review before starting.  We invite judges to come early because some will like to talk and give tips to new judges.

Start of the Fair

You can see the pink judges form clipped in the top right corner. 
It matches the pink tablecloth. 

We welcome everyone and then send out the judges.  Judges know where to go because it is all color coded.  If they are 2nd grade they go to the green tables.  They take off a judging form and judge the project.  They turn in the form at the end.  When both forms are of a project we know it has been judged twice.  Each fair is different, but our judges interview the participants.  The kids love that part.  Remind parents to stand far back.   Judges do not like hovering parents.

Here is our schedule.

K, 1st, and 2nd judging is from 6:00-7:00.  Awards at about 7:15.  Sometimes it gets pushed back 15 minutes.  Each judge does about 8 projects.  5 minutes or so a project.

3rd, 4th, 5th Grade judging is from 6:45-8:00.  Older projects take longer.  We overlap.  Some judges only come for the second shift.  I like to get them out there and ahead.  Other judges go back out right after they judge the first shift. 

Always have a head judge that can jump in when judges get behind.

Color coding has helped our fair so much.  It still is a crazy night, but if the parents see that we are organized and trying hard they will be more patient.   It also makes the room look nice. 

Extra Stuff

Hands-on Activities:  We have a local engineering class and the nature center provide activities in the library and art room.  It gives kids something to do when they are waiting for awards.

Students get a goody bag for participating.  We did baby soda bottle test tubes with colored orbs.  Inside were brochures from our sponsor companies.
We always provide cookies.  We sit out a table of cookies.  Don't sit them all out at once. They won't last long.

All volunteers wear lab coats.  It makes them stand out if someone needs assistance.

Save yourself time planning the fair.  This bundle has it all.  Includes "Creating Original Investigations."  This will guide students to create original investigations.

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