Running a Virtual Science Fair
Updated: May 26
The changes in brick-and-mortar educational experience due to COVID-induced health concerns have meant a drastic change in how children participate in their education. With many schools meeting partially online (hybrid) or completely online (virtual), schools have 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 virtually, which 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 successful! While most things will remain as usual regarding 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, can more than accommodate such events.
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 developing 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 sort 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. The collaboration will make the projects easier, and 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 kickoff address from that room. Undisturbed traditions will help promote a similar ambiance to your in-person fair.
3) Select a Virtual Method
We have seen virtual science fairs run in two ways - live in an online platform or via videos presented in a video “room.” You must select a day and time and set up the technology for the former. You will also have to figure out an order of presentations. If you select to do it by video, you must get a technology that allows uploading and watching 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 pros and cons, so choose what you think would be best for your school community.
Once you have selected your method, please provide as much detail as possible so your families can execute it. This includes details about how to connect, 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 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 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 no teachers are 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 tricky bits. Having parents supervise the fair is also a good idea, as some science projects must be handled cautiously. 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 ensure your virtual science fair is a hit. Just make sure to have fun!