Friday, January 9, 2009

Science Fair Frenzy

Are we all back from vacation and our holidays? Rested?

Ready for the Science Fair Season?

Many schools have their Science Fairs in the winter or spring, and children and their families come in to the library with a variety of information needs.

  • Choosing the right type of project.
    Lots of kids have no idea what they'd like to work on. A great place to start is to ask if their teacher is asking them to do a project, an experiment, or an invention. What's the difference?

    A project is a demonstration of a concept: the classic exploding volcano, for instance, or how seeds grow.

    An experiment starts with a question, then uses the scientific method to investigate the answer. Instead of just using charts and photos to show how a bean seed grows (project), an experiment might ask: "Which brand of fertilizer helps bean seeds grow fastest?"

    An invention, on the other hand, designs a solution to a particular problem. There are some sample invention ideas here, at Science Fair Central.

  • Developing ideas.
    With the type of project in mind, then you can help them figure out what idea they'd like to develop for the Science Fair. They may know exactly what their topic is and what their project will be; they may know their topic but not have a research question yet; they may have no clue about anything.

    Spend a few minutes now in your science section, at 507.8! There are lots of resources there! Look for books that run you through the whole process--types of projects, choosing ideas, presenting results--and books that just provide lots of experiments and projects to reproduce. Don't forget to browse your whole 500 section, as experiment books are also listed by discipline: 520.78 for astronomy, and 550.78 for earth science, for example. The more you are familiar with that section now, the easier it will be when you catch that question later, on the floor.

    After you've looked at the shelves, take a look at the Science Fair Projects page on Tales' Treehouse. There are great experiment idea sites here, plus general sites as well.

  • Background research.
    Kids often will need to add additional information about their topic to their presentations or reports. Ask if they need to get their information from a book, or if we can use encyclopedias or databases.

    Don't forget to check science encyclopedias or even the World Book for articles. Look through the kids databases, and if you can't find anything in kids, try the Science Reference Center database on the adult site.

What tips or resources help you out with Science Fair questions?


Karen H said...

Thank you for great advice for helping kids (and their parents) find science fair projects.

Tracey said...

Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips! I will definitely pass them on to my coworkers. I often remind our kids to check the adult nonfiction, as well, as we have some teen materials in that collection that might prove useful to them. My issue with science fair kids is that usually they don't have any idea what info they need, and really want library staff to do everything but the experiment itself for them. It's a fine line to walk for our staff, I think, but your tips will help. Thanks again!