We all remember the dreaded science fair projects from our own childhood, right? But for most of us, the science fair was part of a traditional public school experience. How can we give our kids a science fair experience they’ll enjoy and learn from, if they’re homeschoolers?
Many homeschool support groups put together small science fairs for their members. Some of the larger groups have quite elaborate programs, with judges and prizes for the winners. Sometimes state homeschooling organizations will put together something similar. It can’t hurt to ask around and see if other homeschoolers you know have some leads. If not, consider starting your own!
However, a science fair project doesn’t need to be in show-ready condition to be a great learning experience. Less focus on competition and more on learning is certainly a viable alternative. The point is that homeschooled kids can learn about science and the scientific method without all the fuss and showiness of a big display. For the younger ages, easier is often better.
Some simple ideas include growing vegetables from seed and varying the amount of water, or light, or perhaps the temperature, and learning what effects this has on plant growth. This is easy enough to do in the family’s backyard garden! You could also design a new invention, a favorite with elementary kids, like building a robot from Legos that can push on a domino to start a chain reaction. Just be sure to find a variable to test, like measuring how hard the robot has to push, or testing to see which size legos to use, etc. Kids love this kind of stuff, and with a little gentle guidance, a science experiment is born!
Be sure they learn how to record their methods and data, because the mark of a successful experiment is when another scientist can come along and repeat your work with the same results. Even if you don’t participate in a science fair, the work itself is valuable as a learning experience.