The possibility of entering a science fair often strikes fear in the hearts of the homeschool mom. "I hate science," you say, "How could I possibly help my son or daughter put together a project worthy of such an event". "Who has the time," you reason. "I am just too busy." Well if these are your thoughts. Think again. The science fair project might not be as hard as you think. Here are some simple steps you can follow to make your child's science fair project a success.
Choose a Topic: This is called "The Problem". The best way to choose a problem is to think about the interests of your child. What piques his curiosity? What problem is he interested in solving? Does he wish you would let him drink more soda and eat more candy? Then let him do a study on the effects of soda on tooth enamel. His problem might be stated as..."What is the effect of soda in relation to tooth decay?"
Do Some Research: Take some time at the library or on the internet to search for other studies that have been done on your topic. This will help you to gain a better understanding of the topic that you are pursuing. You don't have to spend a lot of time on this at the elementary age level, but gaining a better understanding of what you are studying may help you as your form your thesis and develop the procedure for your study. Take time to write down what you learn in a notebook, that you can display at your table.
Write a Hypothesis: This is your child's guess at what the outcome of the study will be. Your child might write something like: "Teeth soaked in soda for one week will be no different than teeth soaked in water after one week."
Procedure: Determine how you are going to set up your project. You will have two variables. The independent variable and the controlled variable. The independent variable is the variable that you change. For our study the independent variable is the teeth soaked in soda. The controlled variable is the variable that you do not change. For our study the controlled variable is the teeth soaked in water. Once you get this straight, you can determine how you will set up the experiment. First you will need to find some teeth. Check for any baby teeth you might be hiding away in a baby book. Or you could ask your family dentist for some teeth. Place these teeth in two separate containers: one with non-diet soda and one with water. Let the teeth soak for one week, checking for any changes you might note each day. Record your findings on a chart or in a notebook.
Results: Determine how you want to display your results. Organize the data in a way that others can understand. You may choose to place your data on a chart. One row could be labeled "Water". The other row could be labeled "Soda". Then you would place your findings on a chart.
Conclusion: After your experiment is over, check the results against your hypothesis. Was your hypothesis correct? How did your experiment results support your hypothesis? Or were they contrary to your hypothesis? Make statements that tell how your experiment either supported or disproved your thesis.
Report: The report is a written or typed paper that should include the following:
Try to think up a catchy title for your experiment. This child might choose a title such as: "Decadent Soda: When it Comes to Teeth...Drink Water".
Table of Contents:
Number your pages and list the headings that are discussed here in order in your table of contents.
Write a short summary of your project. This should include your project title, a statement of your purpose, a hypothesis, a brief description of the procedure, and the results.
The introduction is a statement of your purpose and the information that you learned through your library and/or internet search. It should include how you came to decide on your hypothesis.
This section should describe in detail the experiments you have done. You should list a Purpose (ie. To disprove the old wives tale that drinking too much soda causes tooth decay). You should list the Materials you used (ie. teeth, soda, water, glass containers). Then list your Procedure: list in detail every step you took to carry out your experiment. This should be fairly simple if you took notes in a lab book while doing the experiment.
This section should include any charts or graphs that you compiled during your experiment. Microsoft Excel spreadsheets can aid you in making pretty impressive charts.
This is a summary of what you found out during your experiment. The conclusion should state your hypothesis and whether or not your data supports it.
List any written material or interviews that you used during your research. Click here to see a sample of the format you can use.
This is a short paragraph thanking mom or others who might have helped you with your study.
Display: This tri-fold display board should represent all you have written in your science fair report, but in a concise, easy to understand, at-a-glance, way. The picture below will give you an idea of how to display your research.
This clip art taken from Janice VanCleave's Guide to More of the Best Science Fair Projects p. 26.
For more information on how to conduct a science fair project and for science fair project ideas, refer to Janice VanCleave's Guide to More of the Best Science Fair Projects