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Strategy 1. Take a project and make it your own:
For a student’s first science fair, this is a great strategy. There are many websites and science fair project books that have interesting ideas and tell them exactly what to do. Follow the directions and complete the project, but don’t stop there. Have them select ONE variable and change it to see how the change affects the results. The more often they do this, the more in-depth the project will be. It will also give them practice at conducting experiments.
Strategy 2. Starting from scratch:
To have a unique project, the student will have to design it themselves. That means they have to ask the question, write the hypothesis, and design their own experiment. Everything they find online is available to everyone, so you should expect other kids to be doing (or have already done) the same project.
To find a creative idea, have the student flip through their science book and look for interesting relationships such as:
• Crickets chirp more in warmer weather
• Hot water freezes faster than cold water
• Oysters clean water when filter-feeding
• Insects avoid plants with thorns
• Salinity increases the boiling point of water
Could you turn these into questions?
How about: Do crickets chirp more in higher temperatures?
Could you write a hypothesis to answer the question?
How about: As temperature increases, crickets chirp more frequently
Could you design an experiment to test the hypothesis?
How about: Changing the temperature and counting the chirps per minute
Now try the other examples. In general, “home remedies” and “old wives’ tales” make ideal observations to ask questions about. Focus on variables that are measurable!