Preparing You and Your Child for Science Fair Success
Preparing You and Your Child for Science Fair Success
The following resources will help you help your student throughout the entire science fair project process. After reviewing this page, you'll be able to help your student select an appropriate and exciting project, discover the steps of the scientific method, and point him or her toward quality sources for help, such as our online Project Guide and our Ask an Expert online advice forums.
Doing a science fair project will most likely bring up a lot of questions. To maximize the learning experience, Science Buddies has created a Project Guide to help address many issues that might be encountered during the science fair project process. The Science Buddies Project Guide is a comprehensive online guide to doing science research and science fair projects. It includes how-to information, step-by-step guidance, a planning guide, safety guidelines, photos of science fair projects, tips for success, and self-grading guides for students.
Topic Selection Wizard
Children have a wide range of interests. While some interests may appear to lend themselves better to science fair projects than others, with nearly 1000 Project Ideas—in areas ranging from Cooking & Food Science to Geology to Video & Computer Games—your child is sure to find a project topic he or she is excited about. After all, excitement and passion are what drive great projects, new insights, and innovative discoveries! The Topic Selection Wizard is an interactive questionnaire to help science fair participants narrow their area of interest. You can access the Topic Selection Wizard from the Project Ideas tab at the top of the page. Have your children give it a try!
Science Buddies has over 1,200 Project Ideas in over 30 areas of science. Here are just a few of the interest areas we cover:
- Cooking & Food Science
- Electricity & Electronics
- Environmental Science
- Human Behavior
- Sports Science
- Video & Computer Games
- See the complete list
Ask an Expert
During science fair season, your child will be knee-deep in research and you may be bombarded with his or her questions! Science Buddies Ask an Expert is an online bulletin board you and/or your child can use to ask science fair and/or career-oriented questions. Ask an Expert is staffed by top high school science students and volunteer scientists from a wide array of backgrounds and businesses. We screen and train all of our Experts before assigning them positions as Experts. In addition, activity on the Ask an Expert Forums is monitored by Science Buddies staff, and the program strictly complies with COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act). Here are just a few of the Experts who have been available to answer questions:
- A doctoral student in mechanical engineering at the Stanford Aerospace Robotics Lab who specializes in underwater robotics
- A wildlife researcher and curator of birds and mammals at the New York State Museum
- A theoretical and computational physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, whose recent work deals with the design and use of high-power lasers
- A forensics expert who works for a state crime lab
- An expert in tropical ecology and conservation who studies, among other things, the effects of oil spills on tropical birds
You can access Ask an Expert at any time by clicking on the Ask an Expert tab at the top of the page.
Science Fair Project Overview
By doing a science fair project, your child will have the chance to solve his or her own science mystery. Since your child will have the chance to pick his or her own science project question, from the physics of making music to the biology of tide pool animals, he or she will have the chance to experience the joy of discovery. When starting a science fair project, a student chooses a question he or she would like to answer. Then, he or she does targeted library and Internet research to gain the background information needed to formulate a hypothesis and design an experimental procedure. After writing a report to summarize the background research, the student will perform the experiment, draw conclusions, and communicate the results to the teachers and classmates.
Through time-management and project planning, your child will take on the responsibility of completing a project over at least a ten-week period. Your child will discover his or her creativity by brainstorming science project questions and figuring out how to display the process and results. A science fair project, through its challenge to ask questions and discover, is truly a real-world experience in innovation, similar to what scientists do in their careers.
The Scientific Method
Science projects should follow the six-step scientific method. These steps are shown in the chart below. The Science Buddies Steps of the Scientific Method Project Guide page provides direction on all of the steps.
With the availability of the Internet, the temptation to cheat is probably more prevalent now than ever. It is extremely important to educate your child about how to properly use and credit information they find on the Internet and in any other source.
First, define plagiarism. Plagiarism is when someone copies the words, pictures, diagrams, or ideas of someone else and presents them as his or her own. Put it in terms your child can relate to—when they work hard to write something, they don't want their friends to just copy it. Every author feels the same way. Explain that when they find information in a book, on the Internet, or from some other source, they must give the author of that information credit in a citation. It is acceptable to copy words, pictures, diagrams, or ideas from sources, as long as they reference them with citations and quotations, and use them within the context of other text they have written themselves. Point out that while it's ok to cite other sources, it should only be done to emphasize points the student has made in his or her own words. Cited works should not make up any significant portion of the student's project or paper. Inform your child about which citation source to use. They might already know which source they should use, based on information from an English or science teacher. Check out our Writing a Bibliography: MLA Format and Writing a Bibliography: APA Format webpages for more details about each citation format. A final precaution is to actually spot-check the child's work by typing some of the phrases into a search engine, such as Google—phrases that stick out and perhaps don't read like the rest of the paper.
How to Help with Your Child's Science Project
Our information on appropriate parent involvement makes it easy to find the balance between being involved with and supportive of a child's science fair project and helping too much. Letting your child explore, observe, make mistakes, ask questions—and seek the answers—is at the heart of the science fair process.