Chico Science Fair – Developing Scientific Minds In The North State

The Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico, California, hosts a variety of events throughout the year but the annual Chico Science Fair stands out for science aficionados. On Monday, February 26, over 700 kindergarten through 12th grade students will head to the fairgrounds, lugging inventions, observations and experiments. On Tuesday, 70 local volunteers from a range of scientific professions will review the entries. The fair will open to the public on Wednesday and Thursday, allowing friends, family members and science enthusiasts the opportunity to engage in hands-on activities and admire the investigative results of Chico’s budding scientists.

This year, under the direction of co-executive directors Chrissie Weston and Dr. Becki Brunelli, the fair’s competition will take a new turn. Instead of awarding placement prizes, judges will use a rubric to evaluate the projects and provide specific feedback for kids. “Our goal is to encourage the love of science,” says Becki, “and the past ranking system does not serve that purpose. We’re hoping that getting feedback from the judges – a checklist of what shines in the project and what they can improve on in the future – will be more encouraging to students.”

The judges will still decide upon a “best of grade” award. Many businesses and organizations, such as the Gateway Science Museum, Chico State College of Natural Sciences, PG&E and Paradise Gem and Mineral Club, will also give awards to those projects that align with their interests.

“First and foremost,” says Becki, “the goal of the fair is for kids to become excited by science. Science is everywhere in the world around us.” Over the years, the fair has more than met that goal, so deeply instilling the love of science that it carries on to future generations. “We always get parents coming back to us saying they participated in the fair as kids,” Becki says, “They’re so excited to see their kids get a turn now.” Some fair alumni have even gone on to have careers in microbiology, medicine, astronomy and more. “Participating in the fair,” Becki observes, “helps kids learn critical thinking skills, how to communicate scientific ideas to other people, and how science is part of our daily lives.”

Marie Paquette, a former co-director, recalls her daughter Joanna Johnson-Line completing a science project every year from kindergarten through 12th grade. Marie wrote a guidebook for completing a successful science project, based on her experience as both a co-director of the fair and as a parent of a fair participant. Parents and students can purchase this book for $20 by emailing Marie at

The Chico Science Fair will be open to the public on Wednesday, February 28, and Thursday, March 1, from 10 am to 7 pm (closed for lunch from 1-3 pm). Admission is free! Email questions to Find more information, register a project or donate to the fair at

Jenna Christophersen
About Jenna Christophersen

Jenna Christophersen is a Chico native who loves her community and can never get quite enough of the arts. She supports fostering creativity in any venue, especially as a part of young people’s daily lives.

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