How to Find Science Fair Project Inspiration
Science fair projects run smoothly when the students are genuinely curious about a topic and find exciting and relevant material to investigate, and yet researching a topic before designing a specific experiment takes patience that some children don't have. The younger the student, the more impatience tends to dictate quick choices and later regrets. How can parents help children search for relevant and intriguing information and ultimately select the variables to work with?
- The Library. Most teachers answer the question with a common location: the library. Bring your child to the local or school library and depend on resources like reference librarians, book collections, multi-media offerings, etc. For example, a reference librarian will identify the most pertinent sources both online and in print, saving time and frustration. Likewise, the multi-media section may have nonfiction tapes from Bill Nye, PBS and other credible science sources. And of course, the print offerings will likely include books devoted to “the best” or “the grossest” or another descriptive modifier for science fair projects.
- The Community. Another source that teachers emphasize is the personal network in the community. Chances are that a friend or colleague has a science background, and talking to a person can be far more fruitful than picking through texts. For example, approach science teachers in other grades or at another school. Likewise, the mom of a friend might be an engineer who can provide real-life data, tables and schema. Or, a classmate’s physician father may explain specific lab techniques. These personal resources allow immediate interaction that can easily ignite a passion.
- The Internet. Online sources are innumerable, and parents provide crucial assistance evaluating the sites that claim to be “the home for all your science fair needs.” Direct your child’s attention to the name of the website and the address; sites that end in “edu” and “gov” are the safest and most credible places for ideas, safety information and instructions. Many great commercial sites (.com) contain start-to-finish guidance from credible experts, and a quick parental glance through the home page or “About Us” section helps ensure that the group generating the content is sincere, trustworthy and honest.
- The Alternatives. Thinking outside of the box may be necessary for those students who simply can’t focus on specifics or repeat, “I don’t know” at every question. Consider the student’s other activities and hobbies; everything children like and do involves science. If she loves to bake, the chemical reaction of baking soda versus baking powder makes a fun comparison. If he thrives in sports, imagine a physics question about momentum, force or trajectory. And perhaps most commonly, if video and computer games dominate their airwaves, learning how they are created—animation, computer programming, etc.—keeps students close to their beloved domains.
The first stages of science fair projects depend on browsing, choosing, and gathering pertinent resources, and parents are invaluable guides through the maze of available information. Parents vet material, connect with personal sources and elicit crucial responses. Science projects are long and demand a student’s hard work and attention. The pay off is amazing and valuable if the student freely chose a subject to investigate and carefully looked into potential experiments. Help them tap their natural curiosity to spring a well of ideas.
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