Putting together a project for a science fair can be a fun family bonding experience. Children are like sponges, they are inquisitive and they love learning. Selecting a project that allows your child to participate and experiment is essential. There is nothing worse than going to a science fair and seeing projects created by parents with little to no participation from their children. The most important aspect of choosing a project, is to pick something that interest your child and is on their academic level.
Making an Ecosystem in a bottle is an excellent elementary level science project. To complete this experiment you will need a 1-2 gallon glass food jar. Small animals like snails, insects, or tadpoles. You will also need a sun lamp, a heat lamp, pond water, plants and some form of pollutant. For set up you will fill the jar half way with the pond water, then put a few plants and animals. Allow the ecosystem to stabilize for several days and then record the status of the plants and animals. Then you will introduce a pollutant such as fertilizer or salt. After several days you will again record the status of your ecosystem. Some variables to this experiment may include reducing and increasing exposure to sunlight or heat. The overall point to this experiment is to note the changes in environment caused by the different conditions and relate the changes to environmental causes either natural or man made.
Growing you own mold is another interesting experiment for elementary aged children. In this experiment you will have several different samples with different variable and note the differences. To conduct this experiment you will need several pieces of bread, an eye dropper, and sandwich bags. You will vary the amount of water placed on the bread. The amount of light the bread is exposed to. The temperature the bread is exposed to and the freshness of the bread itself. When you have given an equal amount of time to all test subjects and noted daily your findings you will state your conclusions. Have the children examine what situation causes the greatest mold growth and what situation helped prevent the mold growth.
A baking soda volcano is a classic science fair standard. It is easy to do and your child can present it without the volcano noting just the chemical reaction involved. Items needed to produce this exciting explosion are Baking Soda, Vinegar, a container large enough to control the reaction and safety items such as goggles and paper towels. To conduct the experiment you simply mix the two ingredients in the container stand back and observe what happens. Some key points to review with your child during this experiment would be the chemical reaction between the Baking Soda / Sodium Bicarbonate and the Vinegar / acid. Additionally, review that the end result of this reaction is Carbon Dioxide and that is the source of the foam and noise.
Making your own crystals is a fun and popular experiment, because for some reason kids love rocks. To conduct this experiment you will need 1/4 cup Epsom salt, 1/2 cup water, a shallow dish or pie pan, sponges cut or whole and food coloring. To make your crystals you will start by boiling the water. After the water is boiled you will add the Epsom salt and stir until it is dissolved. Add desired coloring. Then you can either pour the liquid over a small section of sponge or just skip the sponge and pour directly into the dish covering the bottom only. Place your dish in a sunny location and watch as the crystals form. Note with your child how crystals are formed as the water evaporates. Have you child keep a journal charting the progress of the crystals formation over the few days it will take for the crystals to form. To vary this project and make it more of an experiment you can use different ingredients to make the crystals and note the differences in size, shape and formation time. Some other formulas that work for crystal formation are 6 tablespoons of Monoammonium Phosphate and a 1/2 cup of hot water with food coloring if desired. Mix ingredients together until dissolved and place in container as with original experiment. Another way to form crystals is with 3 tablespoons Borax and 1 cup boiling water. You add Borax one tablespoon at a time and dissolve into water. Add food coloring if you like and then pour into a jar. Record findings and differences between three experiments.
These suggestions are all common experiments that for the most part can be conducted fairly and easily with items you have in your home. Creating a presentation using poster board, photos and recorded findings will complete each of these projects. Remember have fun with your science fair project and make it family affair.