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Poster-Breathing Life into the Science Fair Process

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

K-12 and Pre-College Engineering Poster Session

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1161.1 - 22.1161.11



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Paper Authors


Christina Deckard SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific

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Christina Deckard received a B.S. and an M.S. in Physics from San Diego State University. She also received an M.S. in Mathematics Education from San Diego State University. Ms. Deckard is a Senior Scientist at SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific in San Diego working in the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Department. Ms. Deckard has also taught at numerous local colleges and universities in the Mathematics and Physics Departments.

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Kellie Marcarelli Pershing Middle School

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Kellie Marcarelli is a middle school science teacher and department chair at Pershing Middle School in the San Diego Unified School District, where she teaches eighth grade physics and chemistry. Beyond the classroom, Kellie serves as a trainer, teacher-leader, curriculum evaluator and assists in the screening process for the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair. Her professional experience includes working as a staff developer
for the Middle School Science Education Leadership Initiative (MSSELI), the California Math and Science Partnership program, and the San Diego Unified School District; presenting regularly at NSTA’s national conference as well as state and regional science education conferences, and working with WestEd’s K–12 Alliance. She is also actively involved in STEM outreach with local professionals in the science community. She is the recipient of the California State Science Fair Teacher of the Year, the San Diego Science Alliance Partnership Teacher of the Year, and the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair Teacher of the Year awards.
Kellie’s passion for using interactive notebooks in the science classroom grew out of her desire to improve student learning and to provide students with a method for organizing their metacognitive thoughts. She believes that the students are scientists, therefore they should act like scientists and document their findings and ideas.

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Susan Benson Pershing Middle School

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Susan is an eighth grade science teacher. For seven years, she has guided students through their mandatory school science fair, into the county science fair and even to the state science fair. She has collaborated with science professionals for two years during science fair and has enjoyed seeing her students improved investigation and experimental skills.

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Heather Marie McCormick Pershing Middle School

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This is Heather's second year with the science fair program at Pershing Middle School. As a new teacher, the professionals and scientists have been very helpful. She enjoys guiding the students through the scientific method and has seen many successes in the school and county science fair.

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Breathing Life into the Science Fair ProcessMany middle and high schools require students to complete science fair projects in an attempt toraise the level of students’ awareness of science and to provide the student with scientific andinquiry skills. While many students obtain support from family and friends, urban schools relyheavily on the teacher as the primary source of support. This can mean hundreds of studentsbeing guided by a single teacher, limiting the effectiveness and enhancement to the science fairprocess. This paper defines a model used to assist teachers and students by using scientists andengineers to bring relevance and knowledge to the science fair process. The three mainobjectives of the project were to 1) provide relevance to learning science and performing ascience fair project; 2) provide mentors to work with a limited number of students to enhance thestudent’s learning and capability; and 3) encourage lower performing students to attain asuccessful science fair project.A middle school in a large, southwest U.S. city was the setting for the pilot project. The schoolhad required eighth-grade students to complete science fair projects as part of the sciencecurriculum for 8 years. Over those years, many students have not completed the project and mostprojects were barely meeting minimal standards. The school had developed a partnership with alocal research laboratory over a few years and it was decided that the science fair process neededassistance. A team made up of three eighth-grade science teachers, the school principal andscientists and engineers from the research laboratory developed a pilot plan for testing the threemain objectives listed above. Scientists and engineers joined the classrooms multiple timesduring the science fair process to provide real-world experiences and expertise to the studentsand teachers. The scientists and engineers also mentored students working in their field ofexpertise and provided more detailed instruction and advisement on the aspects of the project. Atthe completion of the science fair projects, students were required to provide an oral presentationof their projects to friends and family. The scientists and engineers participated in the judging ofthe oral presentations. For the 301 eight-grade students, the results of the pilot project resulted in111 students being invited to the regional science fair competition, 12 students being invited tothe state competition and close to 100% of the students completing the science fair projectrequirement. Using the knowledge gained from this pilot, the model is being refined andcontinued and the best method of collaboration between the middle school and the researchlaboratory is being established.

Deckard, C., & Marcarelli, K., & Benson, S., & McCormick, H. M. (2011, June), Poster-Breathing Life into the Science Fair Process Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18780

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