Review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2015

Discovery Education: Science Fair Central

Jam-packed resource site supports budding scientists' investigations

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Science
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
K-12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)

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Pros: Kids receive extensive support, so they'll feel successful as they engage in scientific investigations.

Cons: Project ideas may have a little too much detail, taking the student out of the inquiry.

Bottom Line: Science Fair Central simplifies science fairs for students and teachers.

Whether or not your school is conducting a science fair, all students need help engaging in scientific inquiry. Teachers can use Science Fair Central to help students design and conduct scientific investigation. The site starts with questions (one project asks kids to consider, "What makes things fair?"), and teachers can build class discussion from these starting points (like, "If we had a race to see who was the fastest runner, how would we make the race fair?"). These discussions can help younger kids see the importance of controls and changing just one variable at a time. As you extend the conversation, older kids will recognize the importance of working with multiple independent variables, and they'll grow to understand how important it is to collect data on all the different combinations of variables.
 

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Science Fair Central is a free website chock-full of resources running and taking part in science fairs. It can help kids from kindergarten to high school design and conduct their own investigations or engineer inventions to solve problems. Science Fair Central features project ideas, practice investigations, presentation tips, and parent and teacher resources.

First-time science fair coordinators will find this site extremely useful: It contains parent letters, judging criteria, project display checklists, and other tools to get you started. Parents looking to bring a science fair to their child’s school should check out the article “Why do a science fair?” that emphasizes how these events meet National Science and Math Standards. 

 

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Science Fair Central does a nice job of taking the panic out of science fair for kids. Teachers can use Practice Virtual Labs (like "How does your Garden Grow") with or without a science fair. These virtual labs are designed to introduce science investigation design, and they prep kids to plan experiments on their own. Online labs provide many possible independent variables so each student can design their own investigation. Coordinated student planning sheets help kids design sound investigations, offering practice in crucial scaffolding so that kids have the skills necessary to plan investigations independently.

"Choose a Project Idea" gives students a list of testable questions sorted by topic and difficulty level. Unfortunately, this list is overly prescriptive and may offer too much guidance by categorizing the variables for students. That being said, Science Fair Central does require the students to come up with the lab procedures themselves. A comparable science fair website, Science Buddies, has a more detailed survey that helps students use their interests to pick project ideas; check out both sites and see which better fits your needs. Overall, this site is a useful place to get kids started on scientific investigations.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Straightforward design allows easy access to investigation planning tools. There are plenty of project ideas, but students may not find them that engaging.
 

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Animated virtual labs let students practice designing their own labs, with no mess or risk. Planning features help kids get the most out of the science fair experience.
 

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Science Fair Central is a support tool for kids participating in science fairs. Discovery Education provides online closed captioning of video programs, but most of the site is text-based and only available in English.
 


Common Sense Reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Cameron M. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
Get a Head Start on Science Fair Prep with these Resources for Elementary and Middle School Students

The site is useful for helping students create a science fair project. Students who work best independently would benefit most from the site. The list of project ideas and questions would be helpful to most elementary and middle school students. Though the tips and steps are helpful, there are a lot of words on each page and students may not read through them thoroughly or at all. Possibly using a screen reader with the text might be helpful-especially to younger elementary students. Teachers could use the ready-made virtual labs to help students practice before they conduct their own investigations.

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