This week's post is written by Corinna from Down to Earth Mama. If you have or know someone who has a Jr. Higher and/or High Schooler, this is a MUST READ!!
The science fair project. Few things are as simultaneously frustrating and exhilarating for the parent, student, and dare I say, teacher. However, science fair projects are one of the best hands-on learning experiences a child can have. The students become real scientists. They develop higher level thinking skills. They become problem solvers. Finally, science fair projects require writing across the curriculum. They also require creativity and patience. Here are a few tips to help you and your child have a successful, stress free science fair.
- Help your child choose a topic of interest and one that will challenge him/her. The point is not to rehash topics your child already knows, but to stretch their intellect and learn something new.
- Choose a topic that can be tested. Even though research science fair projects can be very interesting and informative, the best science fair projects put the student in the role of scientists. They are able to see the process at work and become true problem solvers.
- Start the process a few weeks in advance of the due date. Run several trials. Run the trials concurrently if the project you selected requires weeks of observations (i.e. experiments that involve growing plants).
- Identify the control, the independent variable, and the dependent variable. The control is the part of the experiment that produces a normal result. For example, if you are experimenting on what to do in order to make a banana stay fresh longer, the control would be a banana that simply sits on your kitchen counter. The independent variable is the variable that the student changes in the experiment. The dependent variable is what changes when the dependent variable changes.
- Record observations in a journal at all times. Leave room for calculations that need to be completed as part of the analysis.
- Do not do the project for your child or suggest that the data is wrong based on your knowledge. This is a learning process for your child. Many scientists do not prove their initial hypothesis. Data that is collected should be written down regardless if it makes sense or not. Do not try to fudge the data or mold it to fit the initial hypothesis. Do not change the initial hypothesis. If the results do not make sense, ask your child what might have gone wrong. This helps to develop higher level thinking skills. Encourage your child to repeat the experiment if you think it is necessary.
- Make sure that your child knows what the results mean. The purpose of the experiment is to develop the student’s analysis and evaluation skills. Ask leading questions to help the student along, but do not tell the student what the findings mean. The student will learn and retain more if they can answer themselves.
- Finally, research the background as much as possible. Start with the easy concepts and work up. The more the student can explain when presenting the project, the more impressed the teacher will be.
The science fair is an exciting and wonderful learning experience. It can help you bond with your child while fostering interest in the sciences. Enjoy!
Corina Fiore was a high school science teacher for 7 years before taking time off to raise her children. She was one of the select few chosen by Boeing to attend a special Advanced Space Camp for Educators in her tenure as teacher, offering numerous insights and activities to be used in the classroom. Corina remains dedicated to education and to the sciences, getting involved in local schools by serving as “guest scientist”.
Questions about the "Dreaded" Science Fair? Leave them here, in the comment section, we will be happy to answer those!
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