When the dreaded paperwork comes home from your kiddo’s school outlining the upcoming science fair projects, do you break out into a sweat and begin to stress out over picking the perfect science project ideas to outdo all the rest? Maybe you rush to the craft or building supply store and scoop up all the materials to get started when your child goes to bed that night. If you said “Yes, that’s me”, I beg you to STOP!!

KEEP SCIENCE FAIR SEASON SIMPLE

Tips from an Early Elementary Science Teacher!

Jacki is a teacher and knows all the tips and tricks, so I asked her to share her thoughts on science project ideas!

“I want to help you remove the stress associated with this activity, honor the tradition of the science fair experience, and proceed in a way that is helpful to your student without doing the project for them.”

USING THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD

The whole purpose of the science fair is to help students demonstrate their understanding of the scientific method. The scientific method is based on the idea that students will think of a scientific topic and subsequent questions they are curious about and want to explore.

They will then work to design an experiment around this question and observe what happens during the experiment before drawing conclusions to answer their original question.

This is very similar to the STEAM or Engineering Design Process that many states and districts are moving towards under the Next Generation Science Standards. 

Keep in mind, this whole process is supposed to be carried out by your child, with SOME assistance from you. As a teacher, I can tell you ten times out of 10 and I would rather see work that is truly student-created, messy, misspelled, and REAL vs. the Pinterest-perfect creation that the mom down the street just posted on her Instagram.

So here are my suggestions to get through the science fair project while keeping it simple.

Grab this FREE Science Fair Project Pack to get started today!

SCIENCE FAIR CHECKLIST

Pick a project that your child has expressed interest in. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ADVICE I CAN GIVE! Engaging your child in this process will be much easier when they are the driving force behind it.

If they want to do something with candy, let them pick an experiment, like the skittle dissolving experiment or the gummy bear growing experiment.

If they’re interested in plants, maybe suggest they try the classic carnation in colored water or the seed germination jar project.

Besides that, KEEP IT SIMPLE! Do not choose something you know is unrealistic for your child to do based on age, attention span, family schedule, etc.

Most of the time, the best science fair projects come from the most basic ideas! 

ASK A QUESTION AND PICK A TOPIC

TIP 1: Generate a list of as many questions as you can think of that relate to the topic before settling on the exact one you will explore through the project. The more, the merrier. Then pick the most specific one and will have clear-cut outcomes.

COME UP WITH A TEST

TIP 2: Help your child develop a way to test their questions realistically. Climbing on the roof to drop things off is probably unrealistic based on safety concerns alone.

Suggest tests that can be completed in the house or driveway, that require minimal materials and will not take over your lives for an extended period of time.

Short and sweet, small and simple. 

OUTLINE THE PROCESS

TIP 3: During the experiment implementation, guide your child through the steps they’ve determined are necessary to test their theories and help them record the process in a way that will make the written component at the end easier.

This organization up front will make a world of difference come a few weeks from now when it’s time to create a final draft of their report.

Maybe you help your child jot down a sentence or two daily relating to their experiment. Or try recording short videos of your child explaining their experiment as they go through the steps.

This can help take some of the tears out of the writing component that will come at the end of the project, as they will have evidence, in their own words of the steps taken, which can then be easily written down. 

CREATE A SCIENCE FAIR PROJECT BOARD

TIP 4: This suggestion may be the most difficult pill to swallow, but I’ll say it anyway: Allow your child to create the presentation board him/herself!

Provide the materials needed (paper, markers, double-sided tape, glue stick, etc.) and help them plan out the visuals, but then let them have at it. A child’s project should look like a child’s project. A second-grader should never be going to school with something that looks like it’s ready for the science fair at the high school!

I know as a control freak how hard that is to allow, but trust me, it’s all about the ownership and the pride they will be able to take in their work, knowing it’s, in fact, THEIR WORK!

If you feel guilty for not helping, offer to glue things down where your kiddo tells you to put them or write things out for them in pencil that they can trace in marker!

Working together can be a fun experience, don’t do it FOR them, I beg you!

Want to learn more about what to put on a science fair board? Check out our science fair board ideas!

SCIENCE FAIR PROJECTS TO TRY

So now that you have a better idea of how to approach this seemingly daunting task, which hopefully now feels more simplified, I’d like to offer you a few suggestions of the “tried and true” experiments that will engage your students and help you get it done without doing you in. 

Paper airplane tossing 

Fold various paper airplanes and record how far each one flies over a series of tosses. Which one flies the farthest? Why is that design the most efficient? Check out some airplane templates here.

Growing gummy bears 

Using different liquids (water, salt water, juice, soda, etc.), observe how gummy bears expand or don’t in various solutions, and determine why that is. Don’t forget to measure and record the size of your gummy bears before and after! Measure after 12 hours, 24 hours, and even 48 hours!

Grab this free gummy bear lab here!

What’s Happening?

Osmosis! Gummy bears will expand in size due to osmosis. What is osmosis? Osmosis is the ability of water (or another liquid) to be absorbed through a semi-permeable substance, which is gelatin. The gelatin in the gummy bears also keeps them from dissolving except when placed in an acidic liquid such as vinegar.

Floating eggs 

This experiment explores how to make an egg float using salt water. Students can explore the amount of salt dissolved in water it will take to increase the buoyancy of the egg and cause it to rise to the top of the container. Think of the Great Salt Lake in Utah! What a great connection to make! 

Germ Busters Bread Mold Experiment

Using a few pieces of bread, some zip-top baggies, and two hands, discover what methods of washing hands are the most effective based on the amount of mold you grow! Will it be a hand sanitizer that works best? Traditional soap and water? Or maybe another nontraditional liquid you try will kill germs best! 

Alternatively, you can check germy surfaces with the bread and place them in bags. We rubbed our bread on the iPad!

The Effects of Sugar on Teeth 

While tasty, we know sugary drinks are not the best for us or our teeth. Using different beverages, like juices, sodas, coffee, tea, sports drinks, and eggs, we can determine which impacts our dental health most and which are not as bad as we think!

We used Coke, Gatorade, iced tea, orange juice, lemonade, and grape juice for our experiment!

SCIENCE INVESTIGATION CONCLUSION

If you are ready to tackle a science investigation or science fair project, I’ve got you covered with the best teacher tips! Download these great tips and science project guide here!

Remember to keep the following in mind:

  • Let the kids pick topics that interest them!
  • Keep the scientific testing ideas safe and realistic!
  • Make sure to stay on top of the observations and data!
  • Let the kiddos put the presentation together. No Pinterest-perfect projects are needed!

The science project may not look perfect, but it will be their work.

EASY SETUP FOR  SCIENCE FAIR PROJECTS

We have created a fantastic free resource guide for setting up your science projects. Click here to read more about setting up your next science fair project.