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Beyond the Science Fair

Creating a Kids' Inquiry Conference

By Wendy Saul, Donna Dieckman, Charles R. Pearce, Donna Neutze

It's time to rethink the traditional science fair, with its tri-fold posters and first-prize ribbons. This how-to manual helps you create an event that's linked to your curricular planning and goals where children share the results of authentic, personally meaningful explorations.

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Full Description

It's time to rethink the traditional science fair, with its tired tri-fold posters and first-prize ribbons. It's time to create an event where children share the results of authentic, personally meaningful explorations with one another rather than compete for adults' praise and attention. It's time for a Kids' Inquiry Conference (KIC).

Beyond the Science Fair is a how-to manual for organizing and hosting a KIC that's linked to your curricular planning and goals. Beginning with a snapshot of a KIC developed by the authors, Beyond the Science Fair guides you through the specifics of organizing and hosting the conference in your classroom, school, or district, with:

  • a wealth of narrative descriptions of KIC classrooms
  • examples of student projects
  • personal reflections by students and teachers involved in KICs
  • tips on encouraging student involvement
  • an extensive resource list
  • 26 helpful, reproducible forms like student registrations, promotional flyers, and letters to parents.

Then Beyond the Science Fair details how KICs can contribute toward your curricular objectives, including information on how they help you:

  • meet science and literacy standards
  • develop students' critical-thinking, analytical, and presentation skills
  • implement inquiry-based science instruction
  • use cross-curricular learning to support scientific inquiry.

Adopt a more meaningful and student-centered alternative to the science fair. Read Beyond the Science Fair and create opportunities for kids to investigate their world and share the products of their natural curiosity with a scientific community of their peers.

(click any section below to continue reading)


  1. The Kids' Inquiry Conference: An Overview
  2. The Evolution of KIC
  3. The Road to KIC: A Classroom Story
  4. KIC in the Classroom

I: Laying the Foundation Through Exploration

  1. KIC in the Classroom

II: Moving Beyond Exploration to Investigation and Presentation

  1. Connecting Science and Literacy Through Inquiry and the Kids' Inquiry Conference
  2. Assessment in the Inquiry Classroom
  3. Supporting Science and Literacy Standards Through KIC
  4. Learning to Think Outside the Box: A Student's Story
  5. The Nuts and Bolts of Organizing and Hosting KIC
  6. Resources
  7. Forms


Companion Resources

The following forms may be downloaded and printed for classroom use only. They are arranged alphabetically so they may be found easily.

  1. Application for Hands-on Display
  2. Application for Presentation
  3. Biographical Data From
  4. Certificate of Participation
  5. Chaperone Letter
  6. Checklist for Host Institution
  7. Checklist for Teachers
  8. Congratulations and Acceptance Letter
  9. Inquiry Grant Proposal Application
  10. Journal Article Guidelines
  11. KIC Is Coming Announcement
  12. Moderator letter
  13. Parent's Guide to KIC
  14. Parent Survey
  15. Participant (Student) Survey
  16. Presentation Blurb Guidelines
  17. Presentation Evaluation Form
  18. Presentation Guidelines
  19. Progress Report
  20. Publicity Announcement
  21. Teacher-Student Contract
  22. Inquiry Investigation Plan