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So, science fair is coming around and you’re not sure what it is you’d like to do? With the Internet making it easier and easier to learn how to do fun and amazing projects, it’s no wonder that the competition is steeper every year for how awesome a science fair project can be.
Although there are plenty more options than the ones listed below, we’ve picked out our favorite science fair projects for kids to try out this year. They range in difficulty from things that you can do in an afternoon to things that will require the assistance of an adult.
Count the Stars in the Sky
Before you get discouraged and think that counting all of the stars in the sky is an impossible goal, we think it’s wise to tell you that this is an elementary level project. Featured on a NASA science fair website, an experiment has been designed that can help you determine the number of stars that are in the sky. This project promotes observation of the night sky, as well as some basic mathematical calculations that will help students determine how many stars it is that they’re looking at through their homemade “telescope.” As a parent, you can encourage your little one to do these calculations independently and then go back to check their work when they’ve finished their project.
In addition to showing students how many stars there are in the sky, if you’d like to expand on the original project idea, you can also determine why stars “twinkle” the way they do. Although it isn’t an actual experiment, the website feature explains in detail that because the stars are so far away, we’re unable to see the atmosphere that surrounds the star. As the atmosphere moves around the bright spot, the differences in the amount of light that are given off will make it seem as though it’s blinking in the sky.
This experiment won’t require any special materials, meaning that you can perform the whole thing with just a few household items. The only item in the list that may be a bit difficult to come across is a protractor. These can be purchased for a few dollars at any grocery store or hobby shop.
More about this NASA Project
Greenhouse Effect Experiment
With the climate changing so rapidly these days, it should make pretty good sense that a project about the greenhouse effect (the reason the earth is getting hotter and colder on a much more rapid basis) is the way to go. This project is perfect for kids in elementary school because it not only goes well beyond the traditional volcano science projects for kids in terms of practicality, but also gives kids a better understanding of the world around them by using a fun and interesting medium.
The general gist of this project is the act of building a small greenhouse (like the ones that are used to grow plants) to show that as carbon dioxide gas makes its way into the box, it has a much harder time making its way out. That increased density of gas keeps heat and moisture trapped inside of the box, ultimately raising the temperature. Just like the earth, whose atmosphere traps carbon dioxide in and ultimately energy, the box in this project will show exactly how the greenhouse effect works and how it can be catastrophic for the earth in the long run.
There’s quite a bit of hammering and building involved with this project, which is why it’s advised that a parent supervise the assembly of the greenhouse box that will be used in this experiment. The only materials you’ll have to run to the store to pick up are some safety goggles and probably a piece of plastic that will form the lid of your wooden box. In addition to being a bit tricky to assemble, there are also some terms that a student may not be familiar with. Big phrases such as climatology and geochemical may be foreign to a student, so if you’re assisting them with their science project, be sure to take the time to explain what these terms mean and how they’re relevant.
More about Greenhouse Effect Experiment
Are you down to the wire on having to turn in a science fair project? Have no fear! We have two projects that are perfect for the students who do things at the last minute. These projects are by no means nobel prize winning experiments, but if you’re in a pinch and need something quick and easy that will get you a good grade, they should do the trick.
Bed of Nails
You’ve probably seen the trick done a thousand times on TV and maybe even a few times in person; Someone builds a bed of nails and lies down onto them all without getting injured or cut. The reason that no injuries are ever found is because of something known as surface area. By distributing your weight across a greater number of points, the amount of weight that’s placed on any one nail becomes increasingly smaller. This experiment is designed to show how exactly that trick works, while also unraveling the mystery of why no one ever gets hurt when they try it out for themselves.
This experiment isn’t designed to be done by a child. Instead, it’s highly advised that a parent assists with the project due to the nature of the supplies needed. In order to get started, you’ll need a few hundred nails and a big sheet of plywood to complete the entire project. Unlike other ideas for kids science projects, this one can be knocked out in an afternoon without much effort at all. You’ll need to read the entire guide to see how to properly assemble the piece of plywood with all of the nails, as well as how to show that the weight is distributed across multiple nails and not just a single one, but for a rushed project, this is definitely a good starting point for someone in a hurry.
Measuring Room Light
By the title, this project doesn’t sound all that exciting, but if you’re stuck for time, it’s a pretty easy project to pull off. In essence, the project’s goal is to show how rooms with bright colored paint or wallpaper on the walls are much better at illuminating a room than dark colored walls. The idea is that as light enters a dark colored room, much of the light is absorbed into the paint and not reflected back to the viewer. Walls that are white or something brightly colored do a better job at reflecting the light off of them and ultimately lighting the room more efficiently.
Unlike the previous project that required the help of a qualified adult, this project can be done with the help of just about anyone you know. The hardest part of this particular project is going to be finding a room that’s painted a bright color, as well as a room that has a darker color paint on the walls. If push comes to shove, you can buy dark colored quilts and sheets and pin them around the room to give the illusion that the walls are a dark color.
An important part of all light bulb oriented science projects is ensuring that no external light makes it into the room. Any extra light that comes in through windows or from other rooms will ultimately make for bad results. For this particular experiment, it’s important that only the light that you provide makes its way onto the walls. It may be hard to find a room with no windows or holes for light to come in, but if need be you can always hang a blanket or sheet over the window to prevent the light pollution.
You probably already have all of the supplies you need for this project in your house somewhere, so there’ll be no need to make an extra trip to the store and waste precious time you could be using to finish your quick and easy science fair project.
Plant Growth with Recycled Water
If you live in the southern part of the United States, chances are you’ve smelled what’s come to be known as “recycled water.” For those unfamiliar with the term, in southern states the water reclamation facilities (where your sewage goes when it leaves your house) treat all of the water that comes in with chemicals to kill off bacteria. They then take that water and send it back out into the county to water plants and grass without using any new fresh water for the job.
It sounds great on paper because reclaimed water costs very little to produce, as the water already exists, and it provides a seemingly endless supply of water to nurture plants and grass throughout a city. However, some speculation has been raised as to whether or not this recycled water is actually good for the plants it’s landing on. This science fair project dives into the idea of how recycled water works and whether or not it has any effect on the growth of a plant.
Unlike the other projects listed above, this one will take a few weeks to conduct, as well as a bit of upfront cash to buy numerous identical plants.
If you’re wondering where you’re going to get recycled water from, don’t think that you’ll have to take a few scoops from the toilet the next time you’re finished using it. Instead, consider using water from a bathtub after someone has finished cleaning themselves, or using the water found in your sink after you’ve done the dishes.
This is a high school level project and shouldn’t require any adult supervision, other than maybe to make sure that no recycled water gets spilled in the house!
More about the project.
Building a Science Fair Board
In recent years, science fair project presentations have become very standardized, meaning you won’t have to hunt high and low for the perfect way to present a final project to the class. Unfortunately, although the materials have become easier to come by, some students simply don’t put the time and energy into making their board an A+ project. Below, we’ve outlined all of the standard information that you should include on your science project board to help better your chances at getting a great grade on the project.
Left Side of the Board
Question – First, you’re going to want to pose your question to the reader. This is different from the hypothesis, which is simply a prediction. Use this section to bring the reader to the same level as you and to help them understand why you chose this particular project.
Problem – If there’s a problem that you’re trying to solve, or if there’s something you’re trying to improve using a new methodology, outline the old problem or situation here.
Hypothesis – In the hypothesis section, you’ll make a prediction about the outcome of the experiment. In most cases, the sentence found in this section is begun with the phrase “My hypothesis is…” to make it clear to the reader what it is you think will happen.
Center of the Board
Data – Present all of the data you collected in the center of the board so that it’s the most prominent thing you see. You can organize your data with spreadsheets or in documents so that it can easily be scanned and the results found. Do your best to label everything in the data section, as anyone who comes up to look at your board should be able to see exactly what it was you did and what results you got.
Right Side of the Board
Procedure – Explain exactly how it is you did what you did. Make sure to be as detailed as possible, as the point of the procedures list is to give enough information so that someone who had no idea what your project was about would be able to replicate the experiment exactly.
Models – If you used any type of models or 3D replicas of your experiment, it’s good to take pictures of them and put them on the board. If you don’t have pictures of the model, or would like to bring the model in, it’s good practice to put the model in front of the display, as opposed to off to the side behind the board.
Research – All good science fair projects have research done for them. Include a short research paper about what you’ve found out about your particular project. Chances are, someone has done the exact same project as you before. See what it is they did in their experiment, how you can make yours better, and include any vital formulas and information that you found in your research.
Materials – In order to replicate an experiment, people need to know what it is you used to make your experiment. Be as detailed as possible. A good materials list will even include things like “paper to record the data.”
Conclusion – Finally, the conclusion section is for you to wrap up all of your findings in a short and easy to read section. Say whether your project was a success or failure and if there is anything you’d do differently.
Tip: As you’re going through your experiment, be sure to include plenty of pictures. Pictures help make a science fair board really pop off of the page and also give your readers a much better understanding of what it was you did for your project. Although the text is important, a few good photos can go a long way when trying to make an A+ board.
While the jury may still be out on what the perfect science fair project is (hell, we still have science fairs every year to try and vote on the best looking and most captivating experiment), we think we have it whittled down to what makes a science fair project “good.”
First of all, a science project should be something that encourages learning. It’s all well and good to force your child to churn out some type of project for a grade, but putting that aside for a minute, we think that a project should be about something much more. If your child isn’t engaged or interested in what it is they’re learning about or experimenting with, it’s time to find a new project. Science fair projects are designed to be an interactive way for kids to explore their environments and learn something new about the world that they had no idea about before. By promoting independent learning, we can encourage our kids to discover something for themselves, as opposed to being handed something they may not be interested in.
Secondly, we know that it’s hard as parents to just let our kids wander off and do their own project all by themselves. We want them to succeed with their project boards and with the experiments they’re venturing into, which is why we shouldn’t jump in every few minutes to refine the experiment to our own specifications. By all means, make sure that your child isn’t using the chainsaw in the backyard to see how much bark can be shaved off of the average oak tree as an experiment, but make sure you don’t end up doing everything for your child. Just as in the first tip, letting your child perform the experiment independently without too much “adult supervision” is important to a child’s mental growth. Seeing how to properly perform an experiment may get them a B on their project board, but we think it’s a hell of a lot better than doing the entire project for your child and then getting upset when they abandon you in the garage to go watch TV instead.
Finally, a good science project is something that pushes the limits of a student’s mind. While we’ve listed a few good projects here in our article, many of them are designed to be done in elementary and middle school. We encourage you to take these as a jumping off point in your research. We’ve included some links at the bottom of the article for you to explore that will help you find some more project ideas of your own. These links have been around for a while. Even I, the author, remember using them on my own science fair projects years and years ago!
Before you commit to any one particular project, it’s always wise to talk to the science teacher who’ll be grading it. As much as we’d like to think that teachers are unbiased, the fact of the matter is that they rarely are. Science teachers always prefer certain projects to other ones for no other reason than “just because.” If you have a project in mind, try and run it by the teacher before you embark on the epic journey of collecting data and reporting about it on the board. Try and pick a project that you’re teacher will really love so that when it comes time to present the project in front of the class, or turn it in for a grade, you know that you’ll already have an upper hand for not only putting in the effort to talk to your teacher about the project before you set to work, but also for picking a topic that they liked and were ready to give a good grade to from the beginning!
We generally don’t like including information about external products on our site, as we don’t want to give the impression that we’re trying to sell you something! However, in my years as a student, every time science fair rolled around, our teachers had books lying around the classroom that they recommended we read. They were packed full of science fair project ideas for us to choose from, and the kids who picked their ideas from these books generally got much better grades than those who simply made something up off of the top of their head.
A+ Science Fair Projects: One book in particular got the most attention in my middle school science classrooms, and it was called A+ Science Fair Projects. The book didn’t look too intimidating on the outside, but inside it was packed with great ideas, ranging from things you could do in a few hours to projects that took a few weeks to pull off. And although I didn’t care too much for science classes while I was in school, for some reason this book always got me inspired to pull off a great project every year (Sorry if that sounded a little too sales “pitchy,” I was simply reliving my days as a 7th grader)