What makes a good science project? Well, there are many answers to that question: From a philosophical standpoint, one that encourages your student to enjoy science (instead of fearing/dreading it). From an academic viewpoint, one that gets a high grade. From a parenting standpoint, one that requires minimal supervision, assistance, and hair-pulling/nagging. For this discussion, however, I am going to look at what makes a “good” science project from a SCIENTIFIC viewpoint. In other words, I am going to discuss good scientific priniciples to consider when you are approaching a scientific investigation, whether it is on the elementary, middle school, or high school level.
2. Be a control freak. Yes, you read that correctly. When setting up your project, you want to eliminate unnecessary variables that may skew your results. Basically, you want to keep things as uniform/standard EXCEPT for the variables you are testing. For example, if you are investigating the effect of soil on plant growth, you want to ensure that the plants are getting the same amount of sunlight, equal pot size, same room temperature (if you are growing indoors), and of course equal amounts of plant food/water. In other words, you want SOIL to be the only thing that differs in your experiments. You want to be as “scientific” as possible….when measuring, use a graduated cylinder or measuring cup (and yes, use the same measuring utensil unless you are using laboratory grade glassware; household measures can vary greatly from one to another). While most students won’t be doing their science projects in a laboratory, try to mimic the standards of laboratory protocol as much as you can. Take copious notes and include this as part of your presentation!
3. Be honest. Part of science is trial and error. Some of the best science projects that I’ve seen had unexpected results. If your results are completely opposite of your hypothesis, still report your results honestly and accurately. If you have a disaster (my dog literally ate my science project), don’t be afraid to report it with candor and do the best you can with the results you have. Fudging, white lies, and made-up results are all the same thing: lying. And completely unscientific.
Hope this gets your young scientist off to a GREAT start on your “good” science project, at least from the view of this scientist!
PS: Need some help getting your ideas flowing for that good science project? Try 24 Hour Science Projects to get you started on your scientific journey!!