Science Fair 911 – Tips for Parents
By Guest Blogger Debbie Leibold
“It’s science fair time!” Those words cause many parents to panic and ask questions like, “How are we going to have time for this?” “What experiment should my child do?” “I have no science background–how am I going to help?” “Where do we begin?”
Don’t panic… help is on the way. Completing a science fair project is not as difficult as you might think and, believe it or not, it can even be really fun! Here at Steve Spangler Science we’ve created an entire science fair section on our website to help students, parents, and teachers through the science fair process. We take you through the process step-by-step, starting with the challenge of choosing a topic and ending with suggestions for the display board and presentation tips. We discuss the scientific method in detail and guide you through the requirements of any good science fair project. We also have a science fair experiment library for you to browse and some excellent sample science fair projects.
Our hope is that you will find the resources you need to help your student get excited about science and, ultimately, that your student will discover something new from his or her science fair project. As a parent, the best thing you can do for your child is to be enthusiastically involved. Your enthusiasm will be contagious and you might even have some great parent-child bonding over your Color Changing Milk or your UV Color Changing Beads or even your Baby Diaper polymer activity. Who knows, you might even learn something new, too!
Here are some other tips that will help you through the science fair season:
- Keep it simple. Ask your child what he or she wants to do and make sure the activity stays at your child’s level. Don’t make this your project. The topic and the experiment need to be age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate for your child. Your child has to be interested in the topic and be able to discuss it in detail at the science fair. There is nothing worse than approaching students at the science fair, asking them about their projects, and realizing very quickly that the parent controlled the project or, worse yet, did the project for the child. The child doesn’t understand what the project was about and can’t explain the science behind the activity. Especially for a young student, a science fair project about food or sports or music or plants is great! It doesn’t have to be worthy of Nobel Prize. It just has to be something that interests your child, follows the scientific method, and tests only one variable at a time. (For more information on the scientific method and variables, please visit the science fair section at www.SteveSpanglerScience.com or the earlier blog posts in the Science Fair 911 series.)
- Use household materials. Again, by keeping your experiment and your materials simple, you should be able to find most of what you need in your home or at the grocery or hardware store. This will also keep the expenses minimal for your project.
- Use outside resources for ideas. There is nothing wrong with browsing the Internet, watching science videos or television programs, or leafing through science experiment books to get your ideas flowing. Steve Spangler Science is a great resource for experiment ideas, but you also might want to check out Steve’s science videos on YouTube. When you look at outside resources, just make sure that you don’t copy someone else’s experiment. Think about how your child could change something about the experiment to make it his or her own. Copying someone else’s work isn’t cool, but it also isn’t any fun! What kind of discovery can your child make if the discovery has already been made? The other important question you and your child need to ask when you are looking at outside resources is, “Is this a demonstration or an experiment?” A science fair project has to be an experiment and not a demo. It must ask a question, contain a variable, run tests to find an answer, and then generate some conclusions. For more information on the difference between experiments and demonstrations, please visit the science fair section at www.SteveSpanglerScience.com or check out the earlier blog post in the Science Fair 911 series.
- Be excited and learn with your child. Ask your child lots of questions and help your child make his or her own discoveries. Open-ended questions like, “Why do you think…” or “What do you think would happen if…” are great conversation starters, especially when they are followed by the comment, “Let’s find out!” Let your child lead the way! Don’t do the experiment for your child or provide all the answers. Allow your child to wonder, question, and explore. Showing a sincere interest in what your child is doing is a great way to support your child and create a meaningful learning experience.
So take a deep breath and relax…it’s science fair time and it’s going to be great!
For more science fair tips, be sure to check back on Steve’s blog next Monday for the next article in the Science Fair 911 series.
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