Science Fair Projects
Coming up with ideas for Science Fair projects might seem daunting, but there are many lessons that can get students on the right track.
By Cathy Neushul
For many students the words "science fair project" have a distinct response. For some, it's a feeling of excitement, for others, profound dread. While any project might be seen as an unwanted amount of extra work, a science project can become a delight, rather than a chore.
When my students worked on their science projects last year, they thought of topics that held a personal interest. One of them decided to test which dish soaps were the most harmful to plants. She used several different kinds of soap, and found some interesting results. Another student decided to design a robot that would provide homework help. In both cases, the students came up with project ideas that they found motivating.
Once students come up with some possible ideas, they are ready to review the scientific method. It all starts with a good hypothesis, but how do you come up with this brilliant idea? You could do a review of some famous scientists, and their experiments to generate some ideas. You could start with Leonardo da Vinci. By taking a look at some of his sketchbooks, students can get an idea how he worked. You could also discuss Charles Darwin, and his observations of the animals in the Galpagos.
The lessons below can help students generate ideas for a science project, and ensure that the steps they follow will produce the kind of science project everyone can be proud of.
Science Fair Project: This lesson provides links to detailed information about the scientific process. It can be used as a way to introduce the scientific method before beginning work on science fair projects.
Simple Machines Lesson: This is an informative lesson that shows students how to create simple machines, such as the marshmallow siege catapult, or the paper clip pulley. This lesson can be used as a precursor to a activity on building simple machines.
Simple Machines Project: This lesson provides a rubric for a simple machines project. While the lesson asks students to create a machine that performs a certain task, such as cracking your egg, the assignment could be more open ended. Students should have learned about simple machines before beginning this lesson.
Polluting the Environment: In this lesson students create a "mini-ecosystem" and then pollute it. This could be a good way to introduce students to the scientific process, and get them thinking about ideas for their own science projects.
Teaching the Scientific Method through the Exploration of Bacteria and Antibiotics: This lesson has students learn about the scientific method using real life examples. Students learn about bacteria, antibiotics, and perform experiments. They also learn about sterile techniques, and experimentation.
A Valid Conclusion? Testing and Reporting on Hypotheses Using the Scientific Method: Students delve into the realm of hypotheses by evaluating examples. Students also develop their own hypotheses, and conduct an experiment. They then write an article about their results.
Energy and Work: Transformation through Engines: This lesson provides a fasinating way to discuss such topics as energy, force, and motion. The lesson has a detailed vocabulary list of terms, and interesting experiments students can conduct.
Charts and Graphs with Spreadsheets: This lesson is a great way to get students thinking about data display options. Students learn how they can use computer programs to display their science project results.
Energy Efficiency Ambassadors: Students design science fair projects that suggest ways to conserve energy used for lighting. While this project focused on lighting, you could substitute any topic. The projects were then displayed at an elementary school science fair. It seemed like an innovative way to get older students teaching younger ones.