How to Make the Perfect 4th Grade Science Fair Board – Tips and Lessons Learned

alex computer
Alex working diligently on her PowerPoint presentation.

Things in the elementary school science fair world have changed dramatically since I was a 4th grader. Heck PowerPoint didn’t even exist when I was in elementary and the first stage of judging at the school level was entirely based on her PowerPoint exhibit!! We didn’t even have to make a board until we found out Alex made it to the District level. I’m not going to go into details of how to make a PowerPoint presentation because Alex actually made the PowerPoint at school by HERSELF!! (Such a proud mommy 🙂 !!) Below is some insight into how we made the board and I’m guessing we didn’t do half bad because this smart 4th grade placed 1st in her school and 3rd at district level!!

Steps for Making the Perfect Board

Edit the Content of the PowerPoint Presentation. Alex and I walked through all herslides and I alex computerhelped her edit any slides that I thought needed some touching up. We also
had many slides with the s
ame heading for “Data” but the board only needed one title for each category, so we enlarged pictures and deleted the titles on these slides. Alex had skipped the Reflection and Research categories so we added those in. Then we loaded our printer with shiny fancy glossy paper and printed the entire PowerPoint presentation out.

Buy a Board and Paint It…Outside. We were hoping to find a pre-colored board at the store but had no such luck. We checked Walmart, Target, and Office Depot. We settled on a thick foam board over a cardboard board as the price difference wasn’t enormous and the quality seemed much better (price was $3.99). Since we couldn’t find a colored board we decided that we would spray paint our board to give it extra oomph. My husband bought bright royal blue spray paint from Home Depot (I’m not exactly sure of the cost but it took two cans to fully coat the board). We chose blue because our project was “How Does Biology Affect Water Quality in Clear Lake?” and we thought blue would go well with our water theme. My husband decided to spray paint the board inside because it was very windy and cold outside. This turned out to be a big mistake. We had two parakeets living in the kitchen (where my husband painted the board) and within twenty minutes of painting the smaller parakeet named Michael was no longer with us in this world. The birds were named George and Michael so we could jokingly call them George Michael after the singer so it was especially traumatizing that Michael passed because its not the same just talking to George. So we sadly learned that all future spray painting or anything involving chemicals was never to be done in the house.

Plan Your Layout For the BoardAfter printing all the slides out and actually having the board, we table workcut out the titles and the body of each of the slides and glued them with a glue stick (to prevent any lumps) onto construction paper. We use green and red to contrast with the royal blue background. Then, using a paper cutter, we cut the construction paper so each slide’s content
and titles looked very uniform. We then placed out everything on the board to make sure it would fit. We double checked the guidance to make sure everything was in the correct location and that we had all the required information on the board. I didn’t actually let Alex use the paper cutter…I didn’t think it was safe for a 10 year old to use it even though she gladly would have. So super mom spent a couple of hours on this step. 

4. Glue the Layout Onto the Board. To prevent lumps or unevenness on the board, spray adhesive is the way to go to glue the layout onto the board. This is another step you probably want to do outside or in a well ventilated area away from all pets. Once its on make sure to let the glue dry completely before touching it. Our board looked like this once everything was glued on.

board and journal

Set the Board Up and Pray for the Best. The day after we finished the board, we had a four hour window to take the board to the gymnasium at the Clear Falls High School. Alex and I were a little shocked at how many boards there were on display. I told her it did’t matter how she did at district because I was already proud of her for placing 1st at her school and this was a learning experience. She was so excited to set up her board and to get a glimpse of the future high school she would be attending. She wished kids she knew and didn’t know good luck. After glancing at the boards we decided there might be a chance she could get an award but we wouldn’t get our hopes up.

alex and board
Alex setting up her board in the Clear Falls gymnasium.

Reap the Rewards of Your Hard Work! I invited Alex’s grandfather and her former stepfather o the awards ceremony for extra support because her father was out of town for work and she was a little bummed. We were all excited and nervous waiting for the announcer to list the winners in her category “Earth Science”. Finally, her name was announced as the 3rd place winner. We were super excited and the happiness was radiating from her like sunshine. It was lots of hard work but Alex was already ready to participate in science fair again. It was a great experience for kid and parent alike, although a lot of work!!




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