Science Fair Planning: A Fun, Family Process
We talk a lot about education around here: how to help kids study, how to encourage literacy, etc., etc. We also like to talk about helping others. A common theme in our posts, in case you haven't noticed, is the assumption, the basic idea that, if one wants to improve things, one needs to get involved in a positive way to affect change. One way to get involved in the improvement of your child's education is to help plan a science fair at their school. Science fairs are awesome ways to provide hands-on, self-guided opportunities for your kids to dabble in science, along with their peers. No matter how many "science projects" you do at home with them, you cannot provide the unique, somewhat competitive, peer environment a science fair provides.
4 Tips to Science Fair Planning
I have had the good fortune to be in charge of the science fair at my son's elementary school for a couple of years now. While this has not made me an expert on the subject, it has provided me with a unique insight into the inner workings of the school, and reinforced concepts I learned in graduate school about working with nonprofits, all of which my family, by extension, has participated in. I wrote about a few of the do's and don'ts of planning science fairs over here, like finding someone to do a really good chemistry magic show for a kick-off event and not asking too much of teachers. Let me provide here some more tips, particularly with regards to working with local businesses to support your science fair, should you decide to organize one and involve your family in it.
Tip #1: Approach Only Appropriate Organizations
First, you have a much better chance of success if you only approach businesses and organizations who have something to gain by sponsoring or giving prizes for your fair. This means that, a couple of months before your fair, you should sit down and make a list of places you visit as a family that have something to do with the sciences, whether they be biology, astronomy, or geology, and whether they be a museum or a store. For us, that has meant places like Clark Planetarium, Living Planet Aquarium, Thanksgiving Point's Museum of Ancient Life, and our local educational supply store Country Loft. I approach them by telling them that their donations will merit their inclusion in all of our pre-fair and day-of publicity, to a dedicated, science-minded audience (parents and family of science fair students).
Tip #2: Publicize Well
Obviously, then, I work closely with our PTA and school publicity people to make sure that the fair is widely publicized throughout the school, through various social media channels, and in the community as well. All donors, even nonprofits, give with a measure of reciprocity in mind, or with the idea that "what goes around comes around." By donating science-related toys, memberships, or experiences, they will get their name before parents whose kids have an active interest in science, and be the place those parents are most likely to think of when they need to purchase things to keep that interest alive.
Tip #3: Do Your Research
Third, get to know those organizations well before you approach them, so that when you do, you can do so with passion and professionalism and, if necessary, protocol. They receive so many pleas for donations; you distinguish yourself and your school's fair by asking with their needs in mind, with enthusiasm for the prospect of planting the seed of scientific curiosity in a child's brain with their product, and with the forms and by the deadlines many larger organizations require.
Tip #4: Involve Your Kids
Lastly, involving your kids in the process of contacting local organizations demonstrates to them the skills of diplomacy and courage in reaching out. Now, if you have the good fortune to be in charge of a science fair at a school that already has a large science fair budget or parent donation base, still consider the possibility of offering the opportunity of sponsorship to local organizations, if your school district's policies allow it. Use additional funds, if you have them, to purchase decorations for the fair or thank-you gifts for the judges.
Planning a science fair is altogether a very fun, interesting, and educational process for all involved.
A frequent contributor to Mom It Forward, Jamie Moesser holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in public administration. Before becoming a full-time mom she spent 10 years writing grants and fundraising for non-profit organizations. She now enjoys blogging at HobbyMamas.com, volunteering at her sons’ school, reading, writing fiction, and scrapbooking. And as if that wasn’t enough, her other hobbies include waterskiing, r/c car racing, and dirt biking.
Have you ever planned a science fair? What tips have you found to be useful?