Science Fair Fundamentals
By Linda C. Joseph Columbus Public Schools
Library of Congress
Science Fair programs are awesome and can generate all
sorts of amazing results from inspiring and engaging projects.
Finding good resources that outline the process and suggest
age-appropriate topics is a key component for getting
students started. Another important factor is to involve
parents so that they can assist their children throughout
the process. Be sure to visit these CyberBee-selected
Web sites for resources, tips, and experiments that will
help jump-start your science fair program.
SCIENCE PROJECT RESOURCES
All Science Fair Projects
Search or browse more than 500 science fair topics
with descriptions, grade level, and links to the featured
Web sites. This database of information has been compiled
and indexed for easy searching. At the time this column
was written, there was no fee for the service.
IPL Kidspace: Science Fair Project Resource Guide
The Internet Public Library has prepared an annotated
list of science fair resources that can be used with
students ranging in age from 10 to18. This resource
list is designed to cover a variety of topics such as
the scientific method, what makes a good project, and
choosing a topic. There is an extensive list of Ask
the Experts for those students who might need some additional
help in answering a specific question related to their
topic. The IPL Kidspace is one of the best starting
places for finding resources.
Planet Ag Science Fair Projects
What is irradiation and how is it used in the fresh
fruit and vegetable industries? How does the soil on
hills differ from the soil in valleys? These are examples
of agricultural science fair projects promoted on Planet
Ag sponsored by the Florida Agricultural Department.
In addition to suggestions for projects, there is a
brief introduction to the scientific method and why
you might choose agriculture to study. Rounding out
the site is Florida Farm Facts, Information for Teachers,
and Careers in Ag Science.
School Science Fairs Homepage
If you are looking for science fair project ideas,
make School Science Fairs Homepage your first stop.
It provides a comprehensive list of science fair topics
organized by grade level, from primary through high
school. Suggestions for the lower grades are geared
toward demonstrations and models while ideas for the
upper grades focus on experimentation and sophisticated
Science Fair Central
Tap into the resources of Janice VanCleave, who has
written more than 45 books about science and science
fairs. From the nuts and bolts of putting a project
together to a database of questions and answers, there
is a wealth of information for students, teachers, and
parents. Tip sheets in categories such as astronomy,
biology, chemistry, and physics guide students through
the inquiry processfrom developing a question
to designing an experiment. Teachers will find the science
fair organizer, which includes a letter to parents,
checklists, and evaluation criteria, to be a big timesaver.
Parents will benefit from the Helping Your Young
Scientist Guide, which is full of suggestions on
how to choose a topic, how much time is needed, and
where to find more information. Begin your science fair
preparation by visiting this site first.
Science Project Handbook
Want a model handbook to assist students with the
science fair process? The Science Project Handbook written
for Collier County Schools, Florida, is a great example.
It is well-organized and contains information ranging
from why you should do a science project to expectations,
a timeline, glossary, categories, choosing a topic,
data checklists, the display, and judging criteria.
Super Science Fair Projects
Areas for students, teachers, and parents abound with
ideas and step-by-step instructions. Once you master
the site's navigation, you will be rewarded with loads
of comprehensive information, tips, and links to Web
sites on a variety of topics.
Ultimate Science Fair Resource
For a quick reference on organizing your project,
visit the Ultimate Science Fair Resource page sponsored
by the Society for Amateur Scientists. Here you will
find project steps, project hints, the scientific method,
writing reports, display boards, an idea bank, and science
research links. Each area is concisely written and easy
to understand. In addition, you can ask Dr. John questions
and he will respond within a day or two.
This collection of sites will entice young minds to
experiment using the scientific method in both traditional
and unusual ways.
Be a Popcorn Scientist
Hypothesize these ideas. What method of popping will
produce the most volume of popcorn? Which brand of popcorn
has the best taste? How much moisture is in a kernel
of popped corn? Try these experiments and more on the
PopWeaver Web site. Then, click on "what's poppin'"
to learn more about the types of popped kernels, expansion,
At present, BrainPOP has more than 80 original, animated
movies covering health, science, and technology topics.
The movies are excellent for explaining basic concepts
like the scientific method or Newton's Laws. Content
is based on the National Science Education Standards.
However, it is a commercial site that charges a subscription
fee if you want to view more than two movies per day.
Subscription fees vary depending on use. A teacher account
with a maximum of 35 logins per day is $144.45 for 12
months. A family account for use on home computers is
$79 for 12 months.
Exploratorium Science Snacks
These bite-sized experiments will hook your students
to delve deeper into science. Make glass disappear,
create a battery with your skin and two different metals,
or suspend a ball in a stream of air. There are lots
of 5-minute experiments or demonstrations that can be
expanded into longer ones. A discussion group is available
to ask more questions, send comments, or share results.
Science NetLinks is part of the MarcoPolo Education
Foundation. It features standards-based lesson plans
that incorporate reviewed Internet resources and that
are organized around Benchmarks for Science Literacy.
Lesson plans are written for the teacher, but include
student-ready materials. Lessons can be sorted by title,
grade range, and benchmark. Internet resources are selected
through a rigorous set of criteria and may be sorted
according to benchmarks and grade range. Several multimedia
tools are needed for the interactive portions of the
site, including Adobe Acrobat Reader, Real Player, Shockwave,
Flash, and QuickTime.
Introduce the physics of force and motion by racing
Slinkys. Pose questions about potential and kinetic
energy, gravity, inertia, and longitudinal waves. Have
students develop their own physics experiments. Under
Slinky Tidbits, you will learn about some innovative
uses of the Slinky such as a radio antenna during the
Vietnam War. Other engineering activities include manufacturing
a CD crate, creating a carton, and exploring plastics.
The T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. Project
Not even the most reluctant learner can ignore this
cleverly constructed Web page. Tongue-in-cheek humor
is used to describe procedures, observations, and possible
applications when experimenting with cream-stuffed sponge
cakes. Nuke them in a microwave to find out just how
resistant they are to radiation. Dunk them in water
to see their solubility. Blend them to see how much
air they contain.
Goop to go, Tacky tape, and Pasta with Pep are examples
of chemistry experiments that will intrigue students.
Each experiment includes a list of materials, instructions,
things to think about, and a concluding "what's going
on here." Each step is artfully illustrated and appealing
to the intended audience.
Be sure to visit the MultiMedia & Internet@Schools
home page [http://www.infotoday.com/MMSchools]
with active links to all of the Web sites mentioned
in this article. Then fly over to CyberBee
for more curriculum ideas, research tools, and activities
to use with your students and staff, such as CyberBee's
Science Fair. Topics include what makes a good science
fair project, attention-getting characteristics, selection
tips by grade level, stating the question, and the research
process. Printable worksheets and a list of scientific
supply companies are included.
Linda Joseph is the author of Net Curriculum: An Educator's Guide
to Using the Internet, published by CyberAge Books. The recipient of numerous
awards, in addition to her work in the Columbus Public Schools and the Library
of Congress, Linda is a part-time instructor for Ohio State University. Communications
to the author may be addressed to her at Columbus Public Schools, 737 East Hudson
Street, Columbus, OH 43211; 614/365-5277; firstname.lastname@example.org.