Science Fair Projects - Project Boards and Displays
By Joan Whetzel
In most school districts across the country, the upcoming spring semester means preparing for Science Fairs. Many students have already begun their science fair projects during the fall semester because their projects required a long time to run the necessary experiments and tests. The project itself, is only part of the preparation for the science fair. The students need to get creative in producing a project board and display that will attract the judges' eye and explain the student's project visually to anyone who stops by the display. What is needed to make an attractive science fair project board and display?
Purchasing a Project Board
The first step in science fair display preparations is to purchase the standard 3-panel science fair project display board. They measure 36 inches in height by 48 inches in width and come in a variety of colors. The least expensive and most readily available project boards are white, which work great for any project. However, when working on some special projects, it may be a good idea to consider using a colored display board. Consider using green for ecology or plant projects, blue or black for space or astronomy projects, brown or orange for earth and mineral projects. Think about the impact a colored backdrop would give to a science fair project display and how it could make the display stand out from the rest of the crowd.
Organizing the Information
Prepare the heading title cards for the parts of the science fair project - one each For Purpose, Hypothesis, Research, Materials/Procedures, Data, Results and Conclusions. These usually come free with the purchase of the project board. However, students can make their own title cards on the computer with their own selection of fonts, printing them in color instead of the usual black ink on white paper. Be careful with this, though. It's easy to overdo it. A title card for the science fair project will also need to be prepared. Use special fonts and colors, special lettering kits, or markers to write out the title. Center the title on top of the center panel.
Next, lay the board flat and organize the materials that will be presented on the project board. Under each title card, print up a summary of the project information for that category. Arrange the title cards and summarized information on the three panels. Leave enough room for project information to be added to each section of the project board under the appropriate title card.
Add Photos, Graphs and Diagrams
Add any project photos, graphs and diagrams to the arrangement under the appropriate title card. To add pizzazz to the project board, cut out pieces of construction paper to use a backing for the photos, graphs and diagrams. Ideally they should be 1/2 to 1 inch larger on all sides than the photos, graphs and diagrams. They should also be in contrasting colors and shades from the backboard so the project extras pop on the page so as to draw the judges eye immediately to these project extras. Label each photo, graph and diagram with a one or two sentence summary of what they represent.
A word of note: In humid areas of the country, paper on display boards tends to curl. One way to prevent this is with the use of clear transparencies, cut to the size of the graphs and diagrams. They weight down the paper just enough to keep them from curling and give them a glossy photographic finish as well. Transparencies are sold as single sheets or in packages up to 100 count at all teacher supply stores.
Applying the information to the Board
Once all the project information is organized in a pleasing and eyecatching manner, it's time to apply them to the board. There are several ways to attach things to the board. The most common are thumbtacks, regular glue, glue sticks and double stick tape.
Thumbtacks work great as long as the stems are short enough that they don't poke through the back of the board. They should also have flat heads so the project board can be closed up. Regular glue holds everything to the project board quite well, but it has a tendency to pucker paper, which detracts from the project board's appearance. Glue sticks don't pucker, but they don't hold as well either, meaning items may fall off the project boards at the most inopportune times. Double stick tape works well and will remain hidden underneath project board title cards, papers and photos. When used between transparencies over the photos, graphs and diagrams, double stick tape remains invisible and so it won't detract from the appearance of the final display.
Table Top Displays
Make sure to bring parts of the experiment or the equipment used during the science fair project to display in front of the project board - with the exception of those that are forbidden by the science fair committees. Check with the teacher to find out what is allowed and what isn't. For those projects that don't allow displays of the various parts of the experiment, provide a photo album illustrating the progress of the experiment. The display should also include the project book recording the entire experiment or project, with the student's complete set of notes and results.
A complete display with both a project board and part of the science fair project itself demonstrates the student's work in the most effective way. The best displays are colorful and exciting without going overboard. They must be easy to read and understand and must tell the whole story at a glance. With a little creativity, each student's science fair display can be as imaginative as their project.