Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Magic Bottle: Exploring Air Pressure

This is a great activity.  Using just one bottle students learn 4 great tricks.  Just click the picture to access the free download.
This is a great activity to have during a science fair.  Once students are done talking to the judges they need something to do.  The activities are simple and fun.  It only takes a few volunteers.  The great thing is that all kids will leave with their own magic bottle.
Here is a video of the Dribble Bottle.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Have a Family Science Fair Workshop

Have a Family Science Fair Workshop

The planning of the fair is in full swing.  Excitement was generated by going into the classrooms.  Kids went home and told their parents they want to do a project.  Now what?  Nervous parents have contacted you and don't know how to get started.  The answer is to have a family science fair workshop. 

The goals of the workshop should be:

1.  To reassure the parents.  The kids are 100% in, but the parents may not be sure of what is expected.  A good science fair is age appropriate. 
2.  Excite the kids and the parents.  Perform an experiment that is engaging, simple, and inexpensive.   It should be in the same format as a science fair project.  This will give the families a chance to see what is expected in a project.
3.  Show the kids how to come up with an original idea.  You want the kids leaving with a possible idea and feeling confident.
4.  Families should leave with resources to help them start their project.  It should contain the parts of the investigation, the layout for the board, sample judging forms, blank science journal,  and links to great sites.
5.  Provide some time for families to look through science books for ideas.  Most kids will already know what they want to do, but a few will want to look through the books.  Make sure to have a volunteer on hand to make copies for the families.

Family Science Fair Workshop Sample Lesson

Here is the layout I follow for my workshop

Sign in Table

At the sign-in table have the resource packet and experiment for students to pick up.  Don't forget to have pencils available.   While families wait for everyone to settle in they can look through the packet.


Welcome everyone to the workshop.  Ask the following questions:
1.  Who has done the fair before?
2.  Who is nervous about doing the fair?  (Many parents will raise their hands for this question.)
3.  Does anyone know their topic?
Explain to the parents that the goals of the fair are to make it age appropriate.  It is best to keep projects simple so students can focus on what the experiment is teaching them.  Projects do not need to be expensive.  We don't intend families to spend lots of money on an expensive science kit. Tell families that you will show them  how a project can be simple, inexpensive, and create a memorable experience. Explain that we understand that kids all have different attention spans.  A kindergarten project is much different than a 5th grade project.  It should be different. 
First we will start by conducting a simple investigation.  Have them work together as a family.  Explain that this investigation is in the same format as a science fair project. 

Perform a Science Investigation 

Choose an investigation that follows the scientific method.  I like to make sure I have one that is in booklet form and will follow the layout of the blank science journal. 
This year I did "Dangling Ice"  with families.  This one worked perfectly.  All families had great results.  I also like it because I was able to do the experiment with about 50 kids for under $5.00.  It really shows families how simple an experiment can be, but create fun results.  I really enjoyed watching the families work together.

Teach Students the Four Question Strategy

Bring the students up to the front of the room.  Using a white board have the following questions written on it.  I like using cookies as an example.  It shows something they are familiar with and something parents can also relate too.
1.  What do cookies do?  How do cookies act?
2.  What supplies do I need to do on an experiment on cookies?
3.  How can I change the supplies I use for baking cookies?
4.  What can a measure about the cookies?  This is the toughest question for kids.  Remind them to think of what they would measure after baking them to know what might be different.
After answering the questions we choose one supply to change and one measurement.  I then show them how that can be changed into an investigation question.  Make sure to show the students how many possible investigations you came up with about cookies by using just those 4 questions.
Does the amount of baking soda affect the size of a cookie?
Does the brand of flour affect the texture of a cookie?
What is the effect of the type of cookie sheet on the hardness of a cookie?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Inexpensive Science Fair Projects

 Inexpensive Science Fair Projects

A science fair project should never cost a lot of money.  A project can easily be done for under $30.00 including the project board and crafting supplies.  You can probably spend even less.

Tips to Keep it Inexpensive

1.  Come up with an idea from items already in the house.

Use glow sticks from the dollar store.
Explore with salt and ice.

Explore bubbles using household dish soap.

Experiment with your favorite cookie recipe. 

Water is amazing all on its own.

Get some eyedroppers and wax paper and see what it does.

 Explore the absorption or strength of paper towels.

2.  Pick a topic that is about an every day science concept. 

Why do we use salt on sidewalks?

Explore which fruits will float with or without the peel.
Explore a magnets strength.

Take those old Christmas lights and use them to explore electricity.

Make Butter!
Make Ice Cream!










 3.  Get creative with your idea. 

If you have a sled, snow, and a hill you can do a science fair project.  Increase the weight in the sled and measure the distance the sled travels.  Just start with one person in the sled, then two, and then three. 

Test different cat toys to see how long your cat plays with each of them or your dog.

Think of some of your hobbies.  What can you come up with? 

Project ideas are endless.  Anything can be turned into an investigation.

Looking for more help check out these great workbooks.  Teacher, Student, and Parent Tested.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Creating Excitement for the Science Fair

Schools all have their own way of advertising activities.  My son's school sends out a weekly bulletin through email.  It lets the parents that read it know what is going on, but most really just do a quick scan.  I am guilty of it too.  If you want to create excitement and increase participation you need to advertise to the kids.  A classroom talk is the way to do it. 

The keys to a good classroom talk.

1.  Perform a demonstration to get the students attention.

The demonstration should be something that the kids will remember.  You want the kids to go home and tell their parents about it.  Balloon in a bottle is a great demonstration. 

2.  Have the teacher participate in the demonstration.

Students love to see their teacher being the volunteer.  This also creates excitement for the teacher.  One year I shook a can of soda.  I showed the teacher how to open the can with out it exploding.  If the teacher could open the can he/she got to keep the soda.  The students loved it and the teacher enjoyed the soda.

3.  Show how the demonstration can be turned into a science fair project.

I always tell the students that in a science fair investigation they need to change one thing and measure one thing.  I ask them what can we change in the demonstration we just did?  What can we measure to see the effects of the change? 
For the balloon in a bottle demonstration students can change:
bottle size, balloon size, the size of the hole
What can we measure?
The size of the balloon in the bottle, rank how hard it is to blow it up, the time it takes to blow it up. 

4.  Explain what a fair is and the fun activities at the fair.

Make sure to tell them what the night of the fair will be like.  Create excitement by offering activities at your fair along with looking at all of the projects.  Make sure to give the teacher flyers with the information about the fair. 
Enrollment at our fair went from 15 students to over 40 in one year after starting a science fair classroom talk.  I wouldn't do it any other way.  After the talk parents come up to me telling me their child came home wanting to do the fair.  They even stop me in the grocery store.  Success!  It is easy to convince students to do the fair, but if it is only in the school newsletter many students may never learn about the fair. 

Create excitement with the kids and it will be hard for the parents to tell them no.

Want to create original investigations.  These are great for science fairs, but also classroom use.