Science projects are always tricky for students. Students looking to compete in science fairs really need to take into account all the different criteria for meeting science fair standards. The types of projects are important, as are presentation, and understanding of the topic chosen.
When choosing a topic, a student must incorporate using the scientific method. This means that the students must perform an actual experiment. Many students find themselves disappointed that they don’t place, but forget this critical piece. Science projects are all about understanding how to form and test a hypothesis. Building a model is great, but doesn’t meet the standards for a science fair project.
Students should also take the time to test their hypothesis a minimum of three times. Testing once does not always give accurate results. Suppose the experiment was contaminated? Repeated tests are needed to confirm results.
This being said, here are examples of experiments that students should NOT choose:
Which flavor of bubble gum lasts the longest?
Which battery lasts the longest?
Can you identify which flavor of kool-aid/soda is which?
Which detergent cleans the best?
As a Science Teacher and coordinator for the science fair for my school, I absolutely do not accept these projects for competition. They do not produce accurate results, and are generally considered a cop-out. This is not science. Topics that are good for fifth grade include but are not limited to:
Density- how it affects float-ability of objects, or the density of solids and liquids of the same substance (ex- ice and water)
Most projects involving electricity- building electric generators and testing them- for example, does fruit produce electricity (or voltage)
Temperature-how it affects ants, plant growth, etc.
Build and use an electrophorus to create static electricity
Solar power- does the angle of the Sun’s rays affect the power produced?
There are many more examples of projects available. Be sure that when a project is chosen, the student commits to learning as much about the subject as possible to produce a great presentation, and be sure to create a dynamic board. Science fair projects are judged based on the project, the way it was performed (how well the scientific method was followed) the presentation of the project, the knowledge exhibited by the presenter, and the appearance of the board. Follow these steps, and the project is sure to be a success. Good Luck!