How to Choose a Science Fair Project

By Sylvan Learning

STEM
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The second half of the school year is here. Time to start thinking about your child’s science fair project!

Today’s science fairs are student-oriented, and they more often than not incorporate other subjects. For example, students will be expected not only to research a topic of interest but also to give a short presentation to a small audience on the topic. They need to know their topic and be able to present it.

Organization, time management, and self-discipline play a part in today’s science fair. So does the involvement of parents! And not just in a production role, but in a role of supporter, encourager, and occasional nudge.

How to Choose a Science Fair Topic

Kids need some guidance, of course, but a good rule of thumb is to let their interests guide them.

Interests. What are your child’s interests? Spend some time talking about interesting topics that might spark their imagination. There are many timely topics that you can point to in newspapers, magazines, or the Internet. Ecology and the environment are particularly timely, and kids of all ages can discover projects that are appropriate for their level of sophistication. Other topics could relate to geology (rock collecting), chemistry (a cool experiment), or biology (a favorite animal). Each one has a wide range of subjects that span elementary to high school talents.

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Research. There are lots of places to find age-appropriate science topics. The Internet is always a good start. Investigate general interest magazines like National Geographic and Science. Flip through them for ideas, and visit their websites. Check out the websites of well-known museums, and visit their kids’ pages.

Teacher. Ask your child’s teacher for some good ideas. What projects have been overdone in past years? What projects are new and exciting and have potential appeal to your child? Have they noticed that your child has an interest that you may not be aware of? Can they steer your child in the right direction for information?

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“Monitored” Independence. Try to remember, this is your child’s project, not yours. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should leave them alone. Support them, lead them, motivate them, and even nag them when it’s necessary (toward deadline time, especially). That’s why it’s important for your child to choose a topic that’s interesting and challenging for their age and knowledge. Help them to manage their time, to break down a big project into smaller ones, and to keep on track. If they will need to present their project orally at some point, rehearse with them. Ask them to explain it in their own words, then help them put it in writing. The more they practice, the more comfortable they will feel when presentation time comes. When it’s all done, your child will be proud of themselves, their skills, and their project. Watch their confidence grow, and celebrate with them!

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