I’m not competitive; I just like to win. Of course, as a (stereo)typical nerd, I’m not exactly the athletic type. In fact, I was third string in church-league softball. So, I turned my competitive spirit towards a more even playing field: science. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe in the value of education in and of itself. I’m all for personal enrichment and will even participate in a group hug or a good round of Kum By Ya. However, I would like to address those of you that want a science project that will do more than just get the requirement out of the way. No matter if your idea of winning is a science fair medal, getting an “A,” or sparking a lifetime interest in science in your child…the following ideas are for a winning project—whether your child is in elementary, middle school, or high school.
1. Go With the Times: Of course, you’re going to get a lot more enthusiasm from your child if the project doesn’t bore him to tears. Consider guiding your young Einstein towards a project that hits on a current trend or theme in the news: environmental (recycling, reusing, producing less waste), economy (projects that compare name brand to generic, recommended versus necessary quantities for cleaning products, alternative–and cheap!–energy sources), health and fitness (vitamin C, coatings on vitamins,etc). By choosing a “hot” project, not only will your child have a greater interest in the research, but you have a better chance of catching the attention of a science fair judge or teacher. Remember, there are only so many homemade tornadoes that someone can look at before their eyes glass over!
2. Play By the Rules: Make sure that you are aware of the restrictions and requirements for the project. You don’t want a student to do all that work to be disqualified or overlooked on a technicality. Be careful with size limits (board displays and paper length). Also, ensure that you are complying with the TYPE of project that the teacher has requested. You don’t want to turn in a demonstration when an experiment was expected. Check and double check that you have all required elements to the project (Purpose, Hypothesis, Procedure, Conclusion, Graphs, References, etc). This step may seem obvious, but you always want to cover the basics so that your project can “shine” on all the extras.
3. Catch Their Eye: A catchy title can go a long way. “The Effects of Hair Products on Hair Strength” is not nearly as engaging as “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow.” Consider using a popular song title/lyric or pun to get a smile from your audience.
Well, let’s allow that info to simmer (on the Bunsen Burner, of course) for a while. Stay tuned for the continuation of creating a winning science project!