what i particularly love about the science fairs that a local homeschooling mom organizes is that it's not a competition for "best project." it's simply a chance for kids to share with others what they are particularly interested in. each student approaches it in a different way, and the variety of topics was quite intriguing.
there were descriptive science projects: frogs, horses, hummingbirds, volcanoes. there were explorations of scientific principles: making an electromagnet, building a potato battery, investigating evaporation, comparing weights of paper on flight patterns of paper airplanes, growing crystals under a variety of conditions.
there were ooh and aah moments, too. one student demonstrated how a handkerchief soaked in a solution of rubbing alcohol and water could be set on fire and not burn (a version of this at steve spangler science looks cool). another student created all sorts of eye-catching reactions inside plastic bottles and wowed everyone with a blue exothermic foam.
one of my favorites was an investigation of how roman roads were built to last so long. using different building materials such as large rocks, sand, lime, and pavers, the student tried out multiple combinations of ordering these materials on top of each other to see what would provide the most stable surface for driving chariots over. what was particularly ingenious is that this could be done on a small scale - using different kinds of CHOCOLATE! yup - bars, chunks, frosting, and the like. how incredible clever and quite effective at demonstrating the principles of road engineering.
kids, if they so desired, had the opportunity to present their project to an attentive and appreciative audience. there was a range of ages, from 5 to 15, and i saw a lot of genuine interest from the students and their families as they looked at the displays and asked questions. it was clear that some of these kids really got into what they were doing and were happy to talk about their project.
this was a real opportunity for students to share their excitement and depth of knowledge about a topic of their choosing. they read books, conducted internet research, followed the scientific method, and investigated. they came up with hypotheses, tested theories, observed results, and came to conclusions.
this song kept going through my head during the science fair today. these kids were really doing it - testing it out. i love the whole cd from they might be giants - it's called here comes science. my friend jen is using the songs from the cd as a science sampler for her homeschooling adventure.
one of my truly favorite parts about science fair is interacting with diana. she gets an idea in her head of what she wants to investigate. the "book fairy" collects a plethora of resources from the library. and for the next few weeks, the house and car (and everywhere else) is filled with the sounds of her explaining some new fact she has learned and her plans of how she will organize her information to share with others.
her project was about frogs. all about frogs, in fact. she learned a great deal about the life cycle of frogs, how poison dart frogs' toxin is collected, where a frog's tongue is attached in their mouths, and how large they can be. she can answer questions about the difference between frogs and toads (you might be surprised at the answer). in order to encourage people to learn more about frogs, she came up with the idea to offer a true/false quiz based on facts presented on her display board. high scores earned each quiz-taker a hand-molded chocolate frog or a delightful little vinyl frog on a lily pad. needless to say, that went over well.
i am happyer at home today for this community opportunity to share in our love of science.
oh, and for those of you who are interested in learning more about frogs, diana composed a list of her recommended resources:
Amazing Frogs and Toads (Eyewitness Juniors) by Barry Clarke
Frogs by Nic Bishop
The Complete Frog: A Guide for the Very Young Naturalist by Elizabeth Lacey
The Frog Scientist by Pamela Turner
Hip-Pocket Papa by Sandra Markle
Poison Dart Frogs by Jennifer Owings Dewey
Red-Eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowly