Marion Pellicano Ambrose
It’s getting on that time of year again – no, not the holiday season, Science Fair Project time! Those words are enough to make some parents shiver in fear and anxiety. It heralds in several days and nights of whining and pleading “Why do I have to do this? It’s such a pain! I don’t want to! Do I have to?” And besides that, the kids don’t like it either!
Being a teacher, I can tell you that we probably dread this time of year more than parents. Imagine, you have to help with one project while the teacher has to write the instructions, check, guide and grade 20-28 science fair projects, and that’s just for the self contained teacher. I taught grades 3,4 and 5 Science at one time and was responsible for the projects for all 3 grade levels! Middle School Science teachers face the same situation. Anyway, I think we can agree that few people get excited when it’s time for Science Fair.
There is something to be said for the experience for the student though. If teachers prepare students well and parents allow their children to choose a project they are truly interested in, it can be a lot of fun and a great learning experience.
Science Fair gives children the opportunity to do real research and find what scientists have done in the past. Sometimes it sparks a livelong interest in Science. At the very least, students will learn something they never knew before, gain confidence by doing the experiment portion themselves, and pick up important organizational skills in setting up the log. Students may become more familiar with the Library (hopefully they will not limit research solely to the computer), learn how to do a chart or graph on the computer, possibly improve keyboarding skill while typing up the project information, develop artistic skills and symmetry in setting up the board and when presenting they polish their speaking skills.
Finally, there are the awards that come with winning. Having these awards look great on a high school application and sometimes a cash prize comes along with that winning ribbon.
So, is this worth all the stress, headaches and anxiety of doing a Science Fair project? I would say (and please don’t “BOO” me) Yes! I know my own children felt good about themselves after doing their best on a good Science Fair project, and we all learned something, including how to work together! I also learned to step back and let my kids do their thing. It doesn’t have to be pristine and perfect, it has to be theirs! I’ve served as a judge several times so I should know, the most important factor is that the child did the work themselves and understands the science behind the project.
So, when the directions come home and you’re dreading starting yet another Science Fair project, remember this advice:
· Let your child choose a project that he or she is truly interested in.
· Let them “get dirty and make mistakes”, as my idol Ms. Frizzle (the Magic School bus) says!
· Help keep them organized and supervise, but refrain from making it your project!
· Let them take pictures, make graphs and charts on the computer and make it a special adventure rather than a dreaded assignment.
· Show enthusiasm and interest. Make time to sit with your child and talk about the project often. Look through idea books with them to find just the right one.
· Have fun with it! Your attitude will most definitely affect theirs. Take advantage of this quality time with your child. They’ll always remember it – and so will you!