Thursday, December 05, 2019

Science Fair Lessons Learned

Science has been glossed over in our elementary school curriculum in favor of spending more time on Math and Reading which is vigorously tested and tied to school funding.  One way to supplement that has been to participate in the science fair.  At WWA, Kindergarten can make a presentation, 1st to 3rd compete in the Lower Division and 4th to 8th compete in the Upper Division.  Upper Division kids are supposed to work independently.

The most popular projects are typically growing plants, physiological response to lack of sleep or video games, geology models, erosion.  Gone are the days of volcano models.

After initial success, the past couple of years have not had the same Science Fair awards in our household.  It has been a combination of running out of ideas and general lack of interest by the children.  We watched a YouTube video last night and the biggest take away is that the project needs to resonate with kids.  The best projects make observations in the student's environment and then develop and execute controlled experiments (varying one thing at a time and measuring the outcome) to understand phenomenon.  Judges are also impressed by projects that have an impact on society or personal health, as well as projects that have significant learning.

Subjective/Qualitative like taste are difficult to include.  It is best to stick to things you can measure.

There is not as much stock put into visual impact and presentation at the middle school level, but I feel like that is important.  The ability to present information or research on a story board or with a powerpoint presentation is a valuable life skill that has come up for me over an over again for me as a student and a professional.  Graphs and charts are compelling to visualize information in a way that data tables are not.  Today, it is very easy to include a looping video as well to add to a story.

As Nisha only has one more opportunity to participate in the science fair at WWA, I am going to keep a running list of phenomenon that could flourish into science fair experiments.

  • Visualize plaque after brushing teeth - Electric or Conventional Toothbrush
  • Dishwasher detergent tabs - Commercial Pods or Homemade
  • Thermos Tech - What keeps food/drinks the warmest or the coolest
  • Growing bulbs/herbs at home, success factors
  • App usage and Mobile Phone Energy consumption - streaming YouTube vs Playing a game vs Google Maps vs Strava vs Talking on the Phone
  • Tic-Tac-Toe:  Outcome if you start in the center, corner or side?

I think to be successful, the observation has to be relevant and background research easy to conduct.  This year pH and Total Dissolved Solids were difficult for my 5th grader to wrap her head around.


Nisha (5th) - Water Quality Testing pH and TDS (no award)
Diya (7th) - no contest held at D'Evelyn


Nisha (4th) - Stain removal using Thieves or All Detergent (no award)
Diya (6th) - Static Cling (no award)


Nisha (3rd) - Apples Turning Yellow (1st place)
Diya (5th) - Egg substitutes (3rd place)


Nisha (2nd) - What is Friction (1st place)
Diya (4th) - Soil vs Dirt (3rd place)


Nisha (1st) - Bacteria growth - Thieves vs Clorox (Grand Prize)
Diya (3rd) - Water Conservation (2nd place)


Nisha (K) - Which magnets are the Strongest
Diya (2nd) - Generating Electricity from Solar and Wind; drill generator; Kill-a-Watt meter


Diya (1st) - Phases of the Moon Model


Diya (K) - No Science Fair for Kindergarten

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