Here are some great tips from a fellow homeschooler and science fair attender!!
Be encouraged to try it this year!
My 12 Step Program for Science Fair 2019
by Kelly Wong
I’d like to invite you join us for the 2019 Greater Philadelphia Homeschool Science Fair.
Here are the details:
WHEN: February 9
WHERE: Springton Lake Presbyterian Church Newtown Square, PA
My family has been attending this event for 8 years now and it has been worth all the effort. I want to encourage you to try it out even if you find a Science Fair intimidating.
There are so so many valuable lessons learned here. Even though I’m not a very sciency parent, I see so much accomplished by the children, even with the simplest of experiments.
They benefit from, at least, all of this:
- Planning a long term project out for themselves
- Making goals and meeting them
- Following procedures, improving on their own procedures
- Being careful & precise to whatever degree they are capable
- Word processing software and Excel/sheets, etc.
- Making a pleasant, legible and sometimes artistic display
- Summarizing their work on paper and verbally
- Going to an event where they get to see many homeschoolers just like them
- Speaking to kind & encouraging strangers, who love to share science exploration together
- Watching live science & robotics demonstrations
- Getting a prize. My kids cherish their ribbons, even their yellow 3rd place ones, that everyone gets, because it means they survived another year. Following through with the entire process deserves a ribbon!
That’s not even counting what they actually learn about the scientific procedure or the results of the experiment!
But as you can see, it is a lot of work. I won’t lie to you.
But so many good things are bound up in the process, I refuse to give it up. I encourage you to take it up.
You may be thinking, “That’s all great, but it’s too late to think about it this year. If we didn’t start growing beans or filling petri dishes with goo in September, we’re out of luck.” Here’s what my family is going to do now that it is past November and our long term potential project list with exotic materials and human psychology is shortening rapidly to short term projects with stuff we’ve got in the kitchen. We’ve still got 7 weeks till the Fair, not including 2 weeks off around the holidays.
(Blogging note– I’m posting this a little bit later than expected–
EEK– but I am sure there is STILL time!! Just make sure you register by the 9th!)
Step 1. Pick a project today. I’m going to ask my kid if they have a science question they want answered. Sometimes, they say something magically easy, like, what is the best way to get grass stains out of my shorts and we’re off. Last year it was, “Why does our friend have half a lettuce sitting in a glass of water?” Boom, hydroponics, vegetables, water, light, done. But sometimes this takes a little more searching. What are we studying this year? What did Bill Nye do in that last episode we watched? What stuff have I got in my kitchen? What does sciencebuddies.com suggest? The ever present problem, how can I make an experiment out of chocolate?
We will narrow the field to egg shells or plants or color or space. Then make sure we have a question. Not, for example, the question, “Can I show you how ice melts?” but, “Using 3 different methods, which method melts ice the fastest?” The first question is a demonstration. The second question uses a change to compare results that can be measured. This is very important. If we are not measuring something, there is no experiment. How high does it grow? How long does is last? Which one is stronger? If you can’t measure it, it’s not an experiment.
Also find restrictions here on the Science Fair Website.
You cannot grow potatoes from human poop for Fair, sorry.
Good news though, you can measure just about anything else.
And here’s the secret fun part:
DOING the process is way more important
than what that process is.
Don’t stress if it doesn’t sound very scientific or challenging to you. The process is challenging. Measuring is challenging. Writing is challenging. Talking to strangers is challenging. Don’t kill yourself or your student to pick the perfect genius project question. Especially if it’s your first year. I have stared into the eyes of an 8 year old & said in disbelief & silent judgement, “You really don’t know how this experiment is going to turn out?” She didn’t. It was fine. She learned a lot from a question that I thought was painfully obvious.
Relax. Make it fun or simple and move on to step 2.
Step 2. Fill out your paperwork. Register for the fair (by January 9th!). When we know you are coming, we get your prizes ready, your tables ready, your judges ready, your candy & concessions ready, because we just can’t wait to see you all!
Step 3. Make a plan with the kids. Walk them through it backwards. Science fair is Saturday, February 9. Aim to finish your boards by Thursday the 7th. The paper (writing your project report) is due on Saturday the 2nd. Plan to put it in the mail the January 30th. How long do your students need to write a paper? Under 6th grade writes a 1 page summary. Over 6th grade writes a full paper with abstract (or summary), just like any professional scientist does. One kid will write it in an afternoon but need a week to figure out how to make graphs in google sheets. One kid will write The. Entire. Month. Of. January. Figure it out together.
When you are done with that part of the plan you know exactly how long you have to get the experiment done. The procedure will need to be done multiple times. The more data, the more accurate, the more to discuss, the more correct the process.
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Thanks Kelly! I’ll end this post here with steps 1-3 to work on.
Check back tomorrow when steps 4-12 are posted!