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What Is The Deal With Award Winning Science Fair Projects? Some Food For Thought
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Many times when you think about science fairs, winning a top prize comes to mind. Award winning science fair projects are often used as an advertising tool for projects that are found online. This can help people make a decision, if someone won an award for this, then all the elements that science teachers expect should be included. But awards come from how the project was done, not the project itself.  People tend to forget this part!

Awards at a high school science fair, or a regional one can be very prestigious, as these are when the professional scientists can take a look at what the up and coming scientists are doing and recognize the outstanding ones.  This is an entirely different scenario than for a elementary or middle school science fair.  This is when the people who are headed into careers in the industry can put what they learned, and their scientific curiosity into practice.

Here is some food for thought about what award winning science fair projects in elementary or middle school are really about.

One. Many school systems are doing away with awards. It sends a message to the people that did not win an award that their work was not worthy, or good enough.  It also can help get rid of the projects where parents who can't help themselves, help create an amazing project that really is not the kids. They are coming up with other ways to recognize a job well done. Ribbons can be given for people who followed all of the directions. Ribbons can be given for displays that remembered to include all the elements, or are the most colorful You can even give ribbons for the most scientific. Sometimes visitors are give stickers and they place them on their  favorites. The top projects will be rewarded with the better grades, so the kids who did the best job will get their due recognition. 

Two.  Award winning science fair projects many times are not the ones that have the most polished display.  Many times, it is the quick and easy science fair projects that get the awards.  What judges are really looking for is if the proper procedures were followed and how closely the scientific method was followed. Was there a clear focused hypothesis, or prediction? Did they change only on variable at a time throughout the experiment? These are the things that have the best chance to win awards.

Three. If parents keep harping about the chance of winning an award, and pushing the idea that  they want to bring home a blue ribbon, then the kid will think they failed and disappointed there parents.  Kids should not be feeling that they did not measure up just for some blue ribbon.  Parents often will use the blue ribbon as a carrot, to help a motivate a reluctant child or when the kids complain that they would rather play outside. That is a short term gain that ends up in a long term disadvantage.

There are plenty of interesting science fair projects out there that kids can have fun doing, learn something and will come across looking good at the actual science fair. That is of course the whole point, learning something about science and hopefully having some fun at the same time. Whether or not these end up being award winning science fair projects really depends on the effort, the attention to the directions, and in reality the opinion of a judge. The best advice, is to not focus on an award, but on doing the best job possible and enjoy yourself at the same time.


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