Done wrong, science fair can be one of the most frustrating, grueling projects for both children and their parents. Done right, science fair can give your child a taste of real science, of making observations, predictions, collecting and interpreting data, and can engage the curiosity of a burgeoning young scientific mind. We at Rocket Girls encourage the latter, and hope to minimize the former. With proper planning and guidance, science fair can be a singularly enriching experience for young scientists and non-scientists alike.
Here are some resources we suggest:
Science Buddies is the most comprehensive science fair resource on the web. It guides you through choosing a science fair topic – you can browse through their huge database of ideas, or you can select the “Topic Selection Wizard,” which will guide you in finding a project idea. Keep in mind that one of the keys to a successful science fair project is creativity – solving a problem in a unique, new and interesting way. So I strongly urge you not to select a science project verbatim from any of these sites, but to use them as a tool to coming up with a project that is uniquely yours.
Once you choose a topic, Science Buddies also guides you on how to devise an experiment, how to analyze results, how to write a research paper and how to make a display board – all essential tools toward a successful science fair project.
To top it all off, Science Buddies has a section titled “Ask an Expert” to which you can post questions about your project and get feedback from professional scientists in the field.
Discovery Education offers one of the leading science fair resources on the web, especially focused on elementary and middle school resources. Again, even if you find a great idea on this site, spin a new angle on it to make the project uniquely yours.
Cool Science Projects does not have the extensive database that Science Buddies boasts, but its value is in its simplicity. This website guides students from choosing a topic, doing the research, designing an experiment, writing the report, and creating the presentation. In addition, it has many suggestions for winning science fair projects.
Another great resource is iPL2, the product of a consortium of science-minded colleges and universities. As with the other sites, iPL2 guides you through getting started, choosing a topic, completing and displaying your project. They have many links to other web resources, and a cool feature called “Ask the ipl2 Librarian,” where you can get your science fair questions answered.
Science Bob has collected a lot of science fair resources, and narrows them down for us, as well as offering a great page of 50 science resources to get started in your research phase:
With all of these resources, it’s hard to go wrong choosing a great science fair project. In fact, students often say that choosing a topic is the hardest part. My own advice in choosing a topic is to first list your interests and hobbies and then ask yourself, what does science have to do with each of these? Follow up with, “What if…?” questions and see what comes to mind.
Once you land on a “What if…?” question that interests you, ask yourself two things:
1. Is the answer worth knowing?, and
2. Am I passionate enough about this that it will hold my interest, even when the work gets tedious?