The season for science fairs is just around the corner! Help your kids approach science fair as a way to explore what interests them using hands-on, project-based learning. While the project may feel like a daunting task, when you break it down into manageable parts, it isn’t all that overwhelming and actually can be quite exciting! So roll up your sleeves and tackle this step-by-step together.

Let Curiosity Lead You

Kids’ curiosity is a great way to start. Ask them what they’re curious about. Why do mosquitoes bite? Why do some people get sunburned and others don’t? How does a seed become a plant? Encourage the questions and spark that curiosity. Kids will be much more interested and invested in the project if it’s something they genuinely want to learn. Start out with a list and whittle it down. Some topics may lend themselves better to a science fair project than others.

Create a Compelling Question

Once you have a topic, you’ll need to determine what you are trying to find out. Create a question using how, what, why, or which. This question is the backbone of your project. It’s what you’ll be answering through research and experimentation. Your question should have some indication of what you’ll be testing.

An example might be, “How do different types of water affect plant growth?” You’ll want one variable you can change—like the types of water used. And one variable that you can measure – how tall each plant grew. Other factors need to be controlled – like how much water you use, what type of plants you will grow, what pots you’ll plant in, where you will place the pots during the experiment.

Guess What Will Happen

A hypothesis is your educated guess of what you think the answer to your question will be. For instance, “The plant watered with tap water will grow the most.” Make sure your hypothesis is a simple statement that can either be proven or disproven. Your experiment will test your hypothesis. One thing to keep in mind is that it’s okay if your hypothesis is ultimately disproven. The goal is not to prove it to be correct. The goal is to find out the truth using a scientific method.

Prep Your Project

Prior to gathering supplies, you’ll want to talk through the experiment while asking pertinent questions like — What are you going to be measuring? How often will you need to check in on your experiment? Will you have enough time to conduct your experiment before it’s due? How will you measure and record the data? Where will you conduct the experiment? Once you’ve determined the logistics, gather your supplies making sure you not only have the actual material – like plants and pots, but also measuring cups and a journal to record your data.

Set it in Motion

Write out the steps to conduct your experiment and then put it into play. The procedure should be detailed enough so that someone else can run your experiment for you in the same way you would. Take pictures throughout as you observe changes in your experiment. It helps to write the date on a Post-It and place it in each picture. That way when you print them, you’ll know the chronological order.

Draw a Conclusion

Your own observations, along with the pictures you’ve taken, and the data log you’ve kept will lead you to the answer to your initial question and complete your science fair project. Remember, it’s okay if your hypothesis was disproven. In your conclusion, you’ll write why it was and how you determined the results.

Show it Off

The last part is preparing your display and presenting your project. The display will have all the key points above – your question, hypothesis, list of materials, procedure, data, conclusion and the sources you used to conduct your research. If you have a strong question and a well-defined hypothesis, creating the board is the fun part – showing off all your hard work. Be creative. Be wowing. The project was an interest to you. Show that passion off in your display.

Science fair experiments are great learning experiences. Help kids tackle their science fair project by working with them to understand the task at hand, organize the steps, and find out the answers to what they’re curious about.

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