Week 2 of working on science fair questions, and a few more students started thinking about their topics. We went through all of the information about what their science fair projects need to have and how they’ll be judged. I got to talk to quite a few students who already had ideas. Students who don’t have any ideas yet didn’t really know where to start to find ideas. Next week we’ll have some topics for people who need help coming up with an idea.
Many students have a really hard time getting past a demonstration and actually getting to an experiment, let alone a meaningful, original question. People bring up a volcano (not even life science), or putting eggs in vinegar (I know a 6 year old who did this for a science fair–she wanted to compare putting an egg in vinegar, orange juice and milk). It’s hard to get their minds off of this once they decide that’s what they want to do. How do you tell a kid that their idea isn’t along the right track without discouraging them, or just giving them a question to do?
Another common pitfall is picking something measurable. They’ll say, “I’m curious about how plants grow in the desert.” Or, they often know what they want to change, but they’ll say something like “I want to see how changing the soil affects plants.”. When I ask them what they’re measuring, they seem to have a difficult time coming up with the rest of the testable, measurable questions.
There are several students who have a great idea and are on a great track with their question. Others are narrowing in on a general topic and will be ready to think about a specific question in the next few weeks. We’ll also have a few topics for those that get stuck, where they will choose something to change and something to measure within a scenario we give them. We’ll have a few more weeks for them to narrow down their question and plan their projects. Each 42 minute class sure goes quickly.