Mentor and Consultant
Every successful scientist has at least one Mentor. Every successful venture, be it in business or in science, has at least one knowledgeable person, or Consultant, to give advice and answer questions.
The role of the teacher in a science fair project is to be a Mentor and a Consultant, providing the structural support and guidance necessary for student scientists to complete their science fair projects successfully.
(Some links are to YouTube videos. If you cannot access them, alternate links to the University of Wyoming multimedia server are provided)
The teacher needs to know all the ins and outs of the official science fair process.
Above all else, start early! Give yourself plenty of time to learn about science fair processes and its Rules and Guidelines.
Give your students plenty of time to come up with a project that interests them (from the UW Server) and is appropriate for science fair.
The teacher shouldn't be afraid to tell students their project idea is not going to work, doesn't fit the requirements or isn't in the right category (from the UW Server). This might hurt the students’ feelings a little bit, but it is much better to work through these feelings at the beginning rather than later on in the process.
Monitor the deadlines that need to be met. Set mini-deadlines for students throughout their projects and check in with them frequently to make sure they are meeting those deadlines.
Monitor the paperwork that needs to be completed and turned in; some of it needs to be done BEFORE the project is started.
The teacher needs to facilitate a rigorous scientific investigation.
The teacher needs to encourage parents to allow the student scientists to do their own work.
Talk to your student or contact parents directly if it seems that the parents are doing more of the work than the student is. That scenario might result in a great final product, but it will be clear to the judges at the competition that the student does not understand the project in the depth they would have had they conducted the experiment themselves.
The teacher needs to seek help when needed.
No matter how well versed a teacher is in the process of science fair and in the scientific method and designing experiments, questions will arise. There are resources that can help! The Science Posse and/or the State Science Fair Coordinator have resources to help answer those questions. Please contact us when the questions first come up. We can save you and your students a lot of time and frustration by getting you on the right track early on.
The best Mentors and Consultants:
Are aware, from the beginning, of the students’ progress throughout all steps of the research process;
Know the rules and regulations for science fair projects in their state and beyond;
Have a clear understanding of the scientific method and are able to explain it;
Make sure all necessary paperwork is turned in on time;
Contact professional scientists or science fair representatives for help when needed.
Here is a handy guide to a successful science fair experience that was created in 2011 by Fellows:
in collaboration with Partner Teacher
Snowy Range Academy,