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Conducting an Experiment

Conducting an Experiment for the Science Fair

Basic Project Timeline

September Choose a general topic.
September - October Do some preliminary research.
November Choose a question and write a hypothesis.
November - January Conduct your experiment.
January - February Write your project report.
February Prepare your exhibit.
February 11 Attend the Science Fair!

This is a rough guideline only. You may begin experimenting at any time in 2016. If your project deals with any living things (plants, animals, microbes, etc.), you should start early, as these experiments are always unpredictable!


Choosing a Topic

There are many topics to choose from, and countless experiments to perform; how do you choose one? Consider the following questions:

What topics are you studying for science this year?
What interests the student?
What is possible and affordable?

Students do not need to come up with an original idea; they can even choose an experiment from a book (as long as it is an experiment and not a demonstration). More…

While most projects are considered General Science Projects, some are engineering or computer projects, which are judged according to different criteria.

Click here for descriptions of science fair categories.

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Preliminary Research

Because this will help you understand and predict what will happen during your experiment, even young students should do at least some research. More…

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Question & Hypothesis

Once you know a little more about your topic, you can ask a question in the form of, "What would happen if I changed this?" Your hypothesis is your prediction of what the answer will be. More…

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Conducting Your Experiment

All project work must be done at home under parental supervision or at an institutional site under the direction of a qualified scientist. Students must do their own projects. (Parents should never do the project for the child! Remember that each child will be judged on his or her knowledge of the subject.) More about parent participation…

All experiments should follow a scientific method, the systematic method scientists use to conduct experiments. Even Kindergartners can follow a scientific method ... The important thing is that students choose an experiment in which something can be measured. Click here for specific details about scientific methods. The basics are:

  1. Ask a Question. Choose a question that can be answered by observation and measurement.
  2. Form a Hypothesis. A hypothesis is an educated guess about what will happen.
  3. Conduct Your Experiment. Write out your procedures and follow them closely. Be sure to have controls and only one variable at a time. Repeat the experiment to validate your results.
  4. Present Your Results. Your results are the measurements and observations you made during experimentation, often presented in a table or graph.
  5. Discuss Your Results. Explain your results -- why did things happen the way they did?
  6. Draw Conclusions. Answer your original question and state whether your hypothesis was correct. Does this have applications to everyday life?

Tips for a Successful Experiment

Start Early
Measure something
Change only one variable at a time
Keep records of everything
Summarize your data in a chart or graph

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Writing Your Project Report

Each student must submit a written report of the experiment one week prior to the fair. Details: Grades K to 5 or Grades 6 to 12.

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Preparing Your Exhibit

Upon completion of the experiment, students should prepare to present their projects. The following are general expectations by grade level:

Grade K-5 projects should include:

  1. a display of the experiment and the results,
  2. a separate, written project summary*, and
  3. a brief (2- to 3-minute) oral presentation to and interview by judges. (How are projects judged?)

Grade 6-12 projects should include:

  1. detailed records (a journal or logbook),
  2. a written report* (including an abstract),
  3. a display of the experiment and the results, and
  4. a brief (2- to 5-minute) oral presentation to and interview by judges. (How are projects judged?)

*Copies of these papers are due one week prior to the fair, but they should also be displayed at the science fair.

Students who conducted projects requiring prior approval (those dealing with restricted topics) should also have their paperwork with them at the fair and be prepared to show them to a judge, should s/he ask to see it. However, this paperwork does not have to be displayed.

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Attending the Fair

Students should arrive between 8:00 and 8:30 a.m. and be set up by 9:00. Projects are grouped by grade for judging, with group projects being judged at the grade of the oldest student. After awarding the ribbons and prizes, there will be an opportunity to view the projects again, with their awards. The GPHSF will end at 4:00 p.m. Detailed Fair Day Schedule

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Questions? Contact the GPHSF Director. Last modified: 11 November 2016