Running a Virtual Science Fair
Updated: Nov 3, 2020
The changes in brick and mortar educational experience due to COVID-induced health concerns has meant a drastic change in how children are participating in their education. With many schools meeting partially online (hybrid) or completely online (virtual), schools are having to adjust a range of hands-on activities that would normally be a part of their curriculum. In most instances, there are ways to handle the event in a virtual fashion and that is certainly true of the popular science fair. This article will share some ways you can adjust your science fair to host it virtually.
Hosting a virtual science fair may seem a bit out there, but with the right steps it can become a reality - and a successful one at that! While most things will remain as usual in terms of project preparation and run throughs, the major shift will be that of a virtual platform for the fair itself. But there’s no need to worry since technologies, such as Zoom, are more than capable of accommodating such events.
So, here’s what you should keep in mind to make your virtual science fair a success story:
1) Collaborate on Ideas
Being at home doesn’t mean students should be solely responsible for coming up with their science fair projects. Instead, teachers and teaching assistants should assist students, as they do when running an in person science fair. Teachers can use office hours to brainstorm ideas, discuss the logistics of experiments, and sorting out the technical aspects of how the project will be presented. Students can even team up to present joint projects if being at home creates a constraint in terms of resources or expertise. Not only will the collaboration make the projects easier, but it will also be a good opportunity for students to socialize, albeit virtually.
2) Keep the Same Traditions
Presenting from home doesn’t mean you need to change everything. For example, if people usually dress up, keep that tradition. If there are usually community sponsors, get them involved virtually. If people drink hot cocoa, remind everyone to have some on hand (if possible). If it is usually held in the Multipurpose Room, have someone do the kick off address from that room. Having all of these traditions undisturbed will help promote a similar ambiance as your in person fair.
3) Select a Virtual Method
There are two ways we have seen virtual science fairs run - live in an online platform or via videos presented in a video “room.” For the former, you will need to select a day and time and set up the technology for that time. You will also have to figure out an order of presentations. If you select to do it by video, you will have to get a technology that allows for uploading and watching of videos. You will have to give students instructions on how to record their video and you will have to upload all videos. People will then have a day, or a week, to view all the videos, comment and, if applicable, vote on their favorite experiment. Both methods have their pros and cons so choose what you think would be best for your school community.
Once you have selected your method, make sure to provide as much detail as possible so your families can execute. This includes any details about how to connect, how to present (and share a screen), and/or video format and how to upload. You can ask that everyone submit their materials in advance so you can ensure things go well.
4) Do a Dry Run
Whether you are doing a live meeting or a video room, you should plan to do a dry run of the technology. In addition, students should be encouraged to practice their presentations beforehand. Teachers may even want to pair up students that are participating so they can practice their presentations as a pair. Not only will teacher support make the children feel more confident, but it will also refine their projects and make for a smoother virtual fair.
5) Get the Parents Involved
Just because there are no teachers physically present doesn’t mean there can’t be any adult supervision. Your school’s virtual science fair should be a team effort, meaning parents, students, and teachers should all get involved. Parents can help their children brainstorm and execute their experiments, getting them the necessary materials and helping them with any tricky bits. It’s also a good idea to have parents supervise the actual fair as some science projects need to be dealt with a bit of caution. Make sure to communicate the details to parents early so they can plan for it in their schedules. As a fun bonus for those participating, it is a good opportunity for family bonding!
So, there you have it; some effective tried and tested ways to make sure your virtual science fair is a hit. Just make sure to have fun!