I realized early in the year that our homeschool community was lacking a Science Fair so … I took it upon myself to organize one. Knowing that not everyone would feel comfortable doing a traditional science fair project, particularly since a fair hadn’t been available for years, I thought a companion Art Show would entice additional participants. I was so right!
It was relatively easy … and the impact was huge. There was a tremendous number of participants and everyone was so enthusiastic. I know there may be a need in other communities so I thought I would share here how I pulled it all together.
Planning a Homeschool Science Fair & Art Show
Essentially, I first reserved a space … for me, the choice was easy, our Sons of Norway lodge. During the work week, the lodge is used very little. I thereby selected a date in April to allow much of the school year for work our our projects. Though an evening would have been ideal for all parents and even extended family to attend, I wanted to keep the cost to a minimum. It is my guess that finding a suitable location would be the most difficult step involved. Here are some locations to consider in your area:
- A local fraternal lodge like Sons of Norway, IOOF, Lions, VFW Hall, etc.
- The city library
- A church
- A public school (non-profits are generally allowed use of the facilities after school hours)
- Hotel conference rooms (I haven’t checked into this option, but it seems logical and they may even offer a discount – doesn’t hurt to ask)
- A common house within a subdivision – though I believe one would have to be a member
The next thing I did was inform the homeschool community of the date (determined by the reservation of the space). This was easy … I simply posted it on our Yahoo board. In doing so, I also asked for volunteers to help with the following areas:
- Snacks (just a couple of moms to bring refreshments and snacks)
- Greeter (someone to check in participants at the door upon arrival, and direct them to the appropriate table to display their work)
- Prep & Clean-up (one – two parents to help set-up the tables just prior to the start and to help break down the tables and clean-up afterwards)
I created a registration form and posted it on the Yahoo board. The form included a statement of my vision (what I hoped we could achieve – essentially an opportunity to share our projects and thereby glean inspiration from one another), a statement of liability release (I didn’t want anyone liable for a damaged project or piece of art), and rules / regulations (limitations to project size, limitations on subject matter and/or objectionable content or materials).
For a $5 entry fee, each participant was allowed to enter up to three pieces of artwork (different media) and one science project. The money was used to pay for the lodge rental, cover the cost of printing participation certificates, the prizes and the snacks.
Those who wished to participate were required to fill out the registration form and get it to me within 2 weeks of the event. This allowed me time to print the certificates and purchase the awards.
I set up an automatic reminder in the Yahoo system to encourage procrastinators to get their forms submitted. In this way, the Science Fair & Art Show was at the forefront of everyone’s mind. As the date of the show drew near, I called the parents who had volunteered to help and discussed any particulars (time to meet for set-up, reimbursement for snacks, etc.).
The Fine Points
To determine winners (1st – 3rd place), the students were given slips of paper and were asked to write down the name (or entry #) of their favorite projects. Each child was allowed to vote once for a science project and once for an art project. The votes were tallied and the project with the most votes received the prize for first place, a $20 gift card. Second place received $10 and third place received $5.
I had originally planned for judges to interact with participants (particularly for the science projects) – to inquire about their scientific process, etc. but somehow or another, there was some miscommunication and the two judges I had previously spoken with failed to show. Ah well.
The show was a spectacular success! There were so many participants and guests (many homeschool families and friends came to the event simply to observe) – that I determined two separate times (or days) would be necessary to alleviate crowding when we do it again next year.
In retrospect, I would also require participants to arrive an hour (or more) prior to the start of the show to set up their projects and for judging to take place. Though I didn’t intend for official judging for awards to take place – I wanted it to be low-key and relaxed – I thought some feedback from real scientists would have been beneficial.