January 31, 2011

Science Fair

When I was working in our teacher's store, February was Science Fair Time.  It seemed like hundrends of parents came in looking for ideas and help. They were not sure what they were supposed to be doing to help their kids with the projects. 

For several years I was one of the judges for the Science Fair at a local elementary school.  (It is a good thing that is was an elementary school and the projects were relatively simple.  I would never have been able to understand some of the ones done by the older students.)

Here are some suggestions for parents and teachers.

The most important thing is to understand that it is the kid's project.  The concepts covered should be on the level of the child.  He should be able to understand the principles of the experiment.  While he may need some supervision, he should do the work himself.  Choose a project or question that is of interest to the child.

Electrical Circuits are interesting to kids and are easy to construct.

For the electrical energy from a battery to flow out and then come back, there has to be a path for the electrons to follow.  The path is called a circuit.  
If there is a break in a circuit, the electrons won't be able to go all the way around.  A switch is a break in a circuit that you can turn on and off.  Turning off a flashlight breaks the circuit-it stops the electrons from flowing.

This information is from  Switched On  which is a part of the  CTP series called Inside Science. There are 24 books in the series based on national science standards.  The books capture the interest of children in grades 2-6.  The four main branches of science are covered in the series-physical science, life science, earth and space science, and technology.  Each book has information written at the child's level along with experiments that further understanding of the concept.  If you need an idea for a project this is a good place to start.
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 I found an excellent guide for science fairs on a site called
Science Made Simple.

Winning science fair projects
What are judges looking for? 
To produce an award-winning science fair project, you need to understand how the judges select a science fair winner. Here are some questions to consider.

Is your project full of original and well-thought-out ideas?  Were you clear in describing the problem you are researching?

Are you knowledgeable about the experiment itself-did you design it and perform the experiments yourself?

Did you record data from the experiment in an organized way?  Pictures, graphs and charts help to explain data.

Did you collect enough data to reach a reliable conclusion?
Science is all about proof.

The Final Presentation
Be sure to use your display while the judges talk to you.  It isn't just a backdrop, it's a visual aid to the information that you've worked so hard to obtain.  Make sure that the board looks good!!!

The final judging is mostly subjective.  While the judges are looking for a few specific things, the way that you represent yourself and your project, and the way the display board looks can make the difference between leaving a poor impression and impressing the judges with your award winning science fair project.
                           A Lemon Battery--No Way!

It's all in the presentation!  That is where CTP can help you create an award winning backboard.  The step by step directions for this  experiment are found in the Switched On  book.  All the decorations for the board are availanle at http://www.creativeteaching.com/ or your local teacher supply store.

When possible add the components of your actual experiment to show that the experiment really works.
Chemical reations are going on between the steel in the paper clips, the copper in the nickels, and the juice in the lemons.  These reactions push electrons through the wires.  This flow of electrons is called an electrical circuit.  This makes electricity, and with the help of the LED, it changed it into light.

The most important thing is to have fun with whatever project you choose.
Then, be sure that the presentation is one that makes you proud!