Science Inquiry, Teacher Tips & MAP Testing

Science Fair - Inquiry Based Learning at it's best!

As a teacher I wanted to thank you for making the Academy of Science - St. Louis Science Fair possible. Over the past three years, I have witnessed a growing interest in science- in large part- because of the opportunities for my students to present their work. Science is messy and often that is lost in the classroom content. Individual research projects help my students to hone their creative and resilience skill sets that will help them in whatever career they choose to pursue.  Thank you for making all of this possible!”

-Katie L.
High School Science Teacher


Science Fair Builds Skills for College and Career

Students show an increased interest in STEM, and develop skills to be successful in the 21st century:

2014 student explaining project 2

 graduation capScience Fair enhances a college application and resume

Science Fair prepares students for poster presentations in college

Washington University School of Medicine - Poster Presentation
Posters are presented in colleges and universities around the world

Students show significant gains in their abilities to

2014 Science Fair Awardees


Handling Multiple Projects in the Classroom

Good links:

Free tools and resources from Intel Education:

Great info and learning videos from edutopia:


 Building opportunities for students
An edutopia video - take a look smile-face

Click here for more teacher resources from edutopia!
Subscribe to the edutopia youtube channel - click here

Are you new to multiple projects in the classroom, consider...

2014-busy-kids-in-classroom One way to handle multiple projects in the classroom is to start with the same inquiry-based project.  Divide class into groups of 4 or 5.  Teacher provides materials and problem to investigate.  Students devise their own procedure to solve the problem.

 Set the stage - teacher guidance - launch a "wow!"
Testable question - testable hypothesis
Students should know it's a process and expectations/guidelines/boundaries. 
Active participation with collaboration (student to student, teacher to students, teacher to class).

Teacher - ask guided questions to each group.  Remind students of time.

It will be noisy - and busy - and fun - and exciting smile-face.

2014-student-on-computer Data:  Teach students to record their data - they can come up with their own charts to share with the class.  Let students think of what is the best way to organize their data - not necessarily "your" chart to share with the class. 

 Reflection: group shares with the class their ideas - was the outcome what they expected - do they have a new question now - learning from "mistakes;" there are no "mistakes" in science inquiry!

 Connections:  Make real-world connections - ask students guided questions.

Assessment:  Assessing Inquiry Based Projects (using assessment to improve teaching and learning) - click here for tools.

NOTE:  as students become comfortable working in groups, you may then migrate into individual or team projects  and OPEN INQUIRY where students formulate their own problem to investigate.

2014-students-happy-in-classroomDon't forget about early finishers...consider...
If you get a group that finishes early, what will you do?




Science Fair - Tips from Veteran St. Louis Science Teachers!


2020 SF Teacher with group

"More than a practice, best practice involves the
right attitude...accepting that students will
not be at the same stage of their project at the
same time.  Teachers need to be content with
some chaos.

Modeling the process with a 'mini-experiment'
that the whole class can do helps students
understand what the expectations are for
their individual project."
                                Kathleen D.
                                Sci Teacher
                                Grades 9-12


"Set up preliminary due dates for all parts of the
Follow judging criteria from the beginning. 
Use google
docs to sharework between students
and teachers
before final draftsare printed out to
be put on science f
air board.

Walk students through each step with science
experiments in the classroom prior to having them
complete one on their own."

                                               Joe D.
                                               Sci Teacher
                                               Grades K-8

 "We use Google Drive for our students in 6th
grade.  This is a very helpful tool for teachers
to use because of the sharing feature.  With
Google Drive, students share their project
planning template that I have them create
and I can monitor their progress throughout
the planning and experimental phase."

                               Jennifer M.
                               Sci Teacher
                               Grades K-8

 "At the beginning of the school year, teachers are
given a science fair calendar to help manaage
their projects and get all the parts completed (as
a class for the lower grades and for older students'
individual projects) before the school science fair."

                                            Betsy K.
                                            Sci Teacher
                                            Grades K-5


"Start a log right away and write a little each
time you work.  I use my do-nows to engage
students in log entries.  Divide the task into
logical steps and work on them in order, one
at a time.  The children need to see pro-
gression.  They also need to see where they
are going, so show examples of correctly
done finished projects if possible.  For classes
doing multiple small groups, it is helpful to
have an overarching theme with the projects
splitting off from it so you can manage the
background and research easier.  For example,
a topic of acid-based reactions can split into
groups exploring diferent acids, different
bases, temperature effects, etc."

Ruth R.
                                     Sci Teacher
                                     Grades K-5

"I think it helps to have a teacher provide
structure to the scientific method and process
with students on a regular basis.  This can easily
parallel the components of the science fair
projects and prepare the student for independent
inquiry.  It can be very easy.  For example, OES
teachers have developed graphic organizers that
resemble science fair displays and what is
presented to viewers.


                                          Chad D.
                                          Sci Teacher
                                          Grades K-5




 "I made sure to teach the scientific method
chapter/unit at the beginning of the school
year.  I try to incorporate any or all parts of
the scientific method as often as possible when
teaching other units.  My next improvement
is to model/work on several small class
projects, for each chapter if possible, so the
students become more familiar with the steps."

                                      Tom S.
                                      Sci Teacher
                                      Grades K-5

"Individual Students - Provide as much information
as possible for the students/families including a
parent seminar and check list of steps and
requirements.  Have intermittent due dates for
students to turn in parts of the project.  Use time
in class to discuss ideas and give students


                                       Christine N.
                                       Sci Teacher
                                       Grades K-5



"I try to include the components in most
projects or activities.  This gets the students
tuned in to the vocabulary, processes, and
expectations for when they work on their own


                                     Ann L.
                                     Sci Teacher
                                     Grades K-5

"Give each student/family a packet of information
about the process, guidelines, due dates, time-
management calendar, etc.  Create a teacher
webpage of science fair information, time-
management calendar, links to resources and
videos.  Hold a Parent Night about Science Fair
in early January.

                                      Marianne H.
                                      Sci Teacher
                                      Grades K-5



"A big help in doing this project is the fact that
we have mini-deadlines (on average once a
week), so that the total project is not
overwhelming to students.  The deadlines
really help!  So does using the "variable
wheel" to pick a project.  This exercise requires
students to pick a DV and then ways to change
the IV.  This also leads to a list of potential
constant conditions."

                                   Laurie R.
                                   Sci Teacher
                                   Grades K-5

 "I incorporate inquiry and project-based
learning throughout the entire year.  It is
important that these strands of learning
be threaded throughout the curriculum.
Regular reinforcement of scientific
vocabulary is also very important.


Clint C.
                                          Sci Teacher
                                          Grades K-5

  • Ask students to research their findings and conduct further investigations on others who have
    explored the same topic.
  • They could do a "spotlight on the scientist" who may have become famous for his/her work
    in that specific field of science.
  • Students can examine other variables of their project and conduct further testing on their ideas
    (outside of the actual science fair project). 
  • "Guided Inquiry:  I would add that the teacher needs to MODEL, MODEL, MODEL quality
    science fair project write-up.  I would highly recommend that the teacher provide the rubric(s)
    for the
    specific type of project so that the students know exactly how they will be graded and
    all of the expectations are laid out in
    advance to minimize confusion.  Maybe also have teachers
    utilize their own students to "check" on each group and provide pointed
    feeback to help students
    in other groups stay on track.  For
    example, students can have a "Gallery Walk" around the
    classroom to view other groups' science notebooks with write-ups and data collection.  Then,
    after viewing the info, students can be
    like peer editors/reviewers (like movie critics) to
    provide their classmates with specific feedback on weaknesses and strengths
    of their
    projects...also maybe add in areas to improve before the
    teacher grades it at the end or before
    the project is submitted in
    the Science Fair.

    Another tip/idea for Guided Inquiry is to help teachers manage supplies by focusing on only
    1 broad unit (such as plants) and provide students with a variety of different types of
    experimenting/testing that they can do based on the subject matter (i.e. experiment with
    different liquids, test different growing areas, test different types of plants or soils, etc.)

    Another idea for middle and high school science fair projects is to have students do the
    bulk of the work outside of class and maybe only use 1 class period a week to discuss
    and analyse their data, ask the teacher for help or input, work on designing their
    project board (if they've already completed the experimenting/testing part,
    peer reviewing of science notebooks and data collection, etc."
                                                                                      K. Betz
                                                                                      Sci Teacher
                                                                                      Grade 7



2014 peggy and student at awards

Teachers:  science fair questions, comments or just need help,
contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , Fair Director, peggyn (at)



SCIENCE FAIR builds scientific inquiry skills and ties into testing.


Science fair helps students to meet the 2020 Missouri Learning Standards science expectations for Grades K-5 and Grades 6-12, as well as the Science and Engineering Practicies (NGSS) summarized in Appendix F and the Crosscutting Concepts (NGSS) summarized in Appendix G.


Science fair helps to prepare students for the science portion of MAP testing, which they will take in Grades 5 and 8.


By participating in science fair, students of all grades can gain a better understanding of scientific inquiry. Scientific inquiry is included in the Science and Engineering Practices (NGSS) in Appendix F


2014 2 girls with notebooks


Standards and performance expectations that are aligned to the framework must take into account that students cannot fully understand scientific and engineering ideas without engaging in the practices of inquiry and the discourses by which such ideas are developed and refined. At the same time, they cannot learn or show competence in practices except in the context of specific content. (NRC Framework, 2012, p. 218)


Engaging in the practices of science helps students understand how scientific knowledge develops; such direct involvement gives them an appreciation of the wide range of approaches that are used to investigate, model, and explain the world. Engaging in the practices of engineering likewise helps students understand the work of engineers, as well as the links between engineering and science. Participation in these practices also helps students form an understanding of the crosscutting concepts and disciplinary ideas of science and engineering; moreover, it makes students’ knowledge more meaningful and embeds it more deeply into their worldview.


The actual doing of science or engineering can also pique students’ curiosity, capture their interest, and motivate their continued study; the insights thus gained help them recognize that the work of scientists and engineers is a creative endeavor—one that has deeply affected the world they live in. Students may then recognize that science and engineering can contribute to meeting many of the major challenges that confront society today, such as generating sufficient energy, preventing and treating disease, maintaining supplies of fresh water and food, and addressing climate change.


Any education that focuses predominantly on the detailed products of scientific labor— the facts of science—without developing an understanding of how those facts were established or that ignores the many important applications of science in the world misrepresents science and marginalizes the importance of engineering. (NRC Framework 2012, pp. 42-43)


Practice 1: Asking Questions and Defining Problems


A practice of science is to ask and refine questions that lead to descriptions and explanations of how the natural and designed world(s) works and which can be empirically tested. Engineering questions clarify problems to determine criteria for successful solutions and identify constraints to solve problems about the designed world. Both scientists and engineers also ask questions to clarify ideas.


Practice 2: Developing and Using Models


A practice of both science and engineering is to use and construct models as helpful tools for representing ideas and explanations. These tools include diagrams, drawings, physical replicas, mathematical representations, analogies, and computer simulations. Modeling tools are used to develop questions, predictions and explanations; analyze and identify flaws in systems; and communicate ideas. Models are used to build and revise scientific explanations and proposed engineered systems. Measurements and observations are used to revise models and designs.


Practice 3: Planning and Carrying out Investigations


Scientists and engineers plan and carry out investigations in the field or laboratory, working collaboratively as well as individually. Their investigations are systematic and require clarifying what counts as data and identifying variables or parameters. Engineering investigations identify the effectiveness, efficiency, and durability of designs under different conditions.


Practice 4: Analyzing and Interpreting Data


Scientific investigations produce data that must be analyzed in order to derive meaning. Because data patterns and trends are not always obvious, scientists use a range of tools—including tabulation, graphical interpretation, visualization, and statistical analysis—to identify the significant features and patterns in the data. Scientists identify sources of error in the investigations and calculate the degree of certainty in the results. Modern technology makes the collection of large data sets much easier, providing secondary sources for analysis. Engineering investigations include analysis of data collected in the tests of designs. This allows comparison of different solutions and determines how well each meets specific design criteria—that is, which design best solves the problem within given constraints. Like scientists, engineers require a range of tools to identify patterns within data and interpret the results. Advances in science make analysis of proposed solutions more efficient and effective.


Practice 5: Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking


In both science and engineering, mathematics and computation are fundamental tools for representing physical variables and their relationships. They are used for a range of tasks such as constructing simulations; solving equations exactly or approximately; and recognizing, expressing, and applying quantitative relationships. Mathematical and computational approaches enable scientists and engineers to predict the behavior of systems and test the validity of such predictions.


Practice 6: Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions


The end-products of science are explanations and the endproducts of engineering are solutions. The goal of science is the construction of theories that provide explanatory accounts of the world. A theory becomes accepted when it has multiple lines of empirical evidence and greater explanatory power of phenomena than previous theories. The goal of engineering design is to find a systematic solution to problems that is based on scientific knowledge and models of the material world. Each proposed solution results from a process of balancing competing criteria of desired functions, technical feasibility, cost, safety, aesthetics, and compliance with legal requirements. The optimal choice depends on how well the proposed solutions meet criteria and constraints.


Practice 7: Engaging in Argument from Evidence


Argumentation is the process by which evidence-based conclusions and solutions are reached. In science and engineering, reasoning and argument based on evidence are essential to identifying the best explanation for a natural phenomenon or the best solution to a design problem. Scientists and engineers use argumentation to listen to, compare, and evaluate competing ideas and methods based on merits. Scientists and engineers engage in argumentation when investigating a phenomenon, testing a design solution, resolving questions about measurements, building data models, and using evidence to evaluate claims.


Practice 8: Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information


Scientists and engineers must be able to communicate clearly and persuasively the ideas and methods they generate. Critiquing and communicating ideas individually and in groups is a critical professional activity. Communicating information and ideas can be done in multiple ways: using tables, diagrams, graphs, models, and equations as well as orally, in writing, and through extended discussions. Scientists and engineers employ multiple sources to obtain information that is used to evaluate the merit and validity of claims, methods, and designs.