University of Minnesota

Ecology Fair

The Monarch Lab's Ecology Fair (formerly called the "Insect Fair" or "Monarch Fair") is based on a Science Fair model, with many of the projects centered on monarch butterflies. Our most recent name change has been done to better reflect the many types of projects we are now seeing, which have branched out considerably from monarchs and other insects.

The Ecology Fair encourages students to engage in all steps of the research process, including the important final step of data presentation.

Who is eligible?

Students working individually, in small groups, or as whole classes can submit projects. Home-schooled students or children working with their parents or other adults during the summer can (and are encouraged to!) submit projects. We recommend that student researchers be in at least 4th grade. If you have not attended one of our summer courses, please contact Katie-Lyn at 612-625-8304 or about bringing students.

What kinds of projects are eligible?

Eligible student research includes indoor (classroom or home) and outdoor projects. The projects can be experiments in which students manipulate variables, or observational studies. Both kinds of studies are important and interesting. For example, if students wanted to study if monarch larvae grow better on swamp milkweed or common milkweed, they would need to do a controlled experiment in which one group of larvae received swamp milkweed and another received common milkweed. If they wanted to study how much weight larvae gain per day, they could simply weigh larvae every day. If your class is raising monarch larvae or tagging wild monarchs, there are lots of potential research questions that they could investigate.

The students at this fair have worked hard to answer a question of their choosing. In some cases, their results are definitive; in other cases their questions remain unanswered. All of them have learned a lot about how science works. Many projects are the results of collaborations with other students or -- in some cases -- whole classes.

View past project abstracts

How do we do a project?

This website includes many suggestions for carrying out research projects. For a step-by-step guide to taking Middle School students through the whole research process, from coming up with questions to presenting a research report, see our Research with Students section. You can also check out actual project reports by elementary, middle, and high school students.

All student presenters must make a poster on their research, and submit an abstract for their poster. The research projects can be experimental, carried out in the classroom, outside, or in the library; they do not have to have “earth-shattering” results. In addition to carrying out and presenting their research, whenever possible we ask that each student give at least two “outreach” presentations to younger students, their peers, or adult groups.

How do we submit a project?

Your report should include the following parts in this order:

  1. title page
  2. abstract
  3. introduction
  4. methods
  5. results
  6. discussion or conclusion
  7. acknowledgments
  8. bibliography

For details on writing the report, with examples of each section, see our Writing a Scientific Paper section. After registering for the fair, teachers can login to their accounts to submit student projects online.

What kinds of projects do students conduct?

Any projects related to ecology, insects or their habitats are welcome! These projects can include field or classroom experiments on insects or other organisms that share their habitat, library research, class data analyses, or reports on observations of insects in the classroom, at home or outside. All student presenters must make a poster on their research, and submit an abstract for their poster.

What happens at the Ecolgy Fair?

Students will be interviewed in small groups, and will have the opportunity to attend two break-out sessions that include fun activities on insects and other animals. All participants will receive a lunch, T-shirt, and awards for preparing projects.

Who can attend the Ecology Fair?

Anyone can attend the Ecology Fair as a visitor. 

Teachers are encouraged to bring more than six students (our grant pays for six students to attend) if their students have multiple projects, but a maximum of six students may represent each project group at the fair. Projects can be completed by more than six students, but no more than six should represent the group at the Ecology Fair. Having smaller projects allows for more manageable interview groups so students will benefit more from the experience.

Special Thanks

Several funding agencies have supported Monarch in the Classroom programs, and we would like to thank the Medtronic Foundation, the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, the National Science Foundation, the Rukavina Foundation and the US Forest Service-International Programs for their support for the Ecology Fair and our summer workshops for teachers. We would also like to thank the staff, volunteers, and everyone who has attended in the past for their help in making the Ecology Fair such a great success. On behalf of the Monarch Lab, Thank You! 

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