It’s time for the Science Fair!
By Gina M.; ERG Coach
It’s that time of year again, a time that can fill the hearts and mind of countless students (and parents) with dread- time for the Science Fair. But why is the idea of individual science projects so stressful for many people? Shouldn’t it be a time for students to get excited about expressing their interests in science and solving problems creatively? Of course, but it can be an intimidating prospect that these students face. Imagine how such assignments can foster insecurities in even the most dedicated students: They are to create a hypothesis and put forth all their effort on their project for weeks, then their work will be on display for everyone to see, being compared to every other student and critiqued by many. If there is a presentation involved, there may be some degree of public speaking; which many students (and adults) are uncomfortable with and under prepared for at this point in their educational careers. There are technical details to consider as well, many science concepts can be complex and difficult and the math and statistics aspects can be extremely intimidating. One common fear that looms in the minds of students is simply “what if my ideas and my projects just aren’t good enough?”, so it becomes our job as educators, mentors, and parents to turn these insecurities into an amazing learning opportunity.
Students typically have the freedom to choose their Science Fair topic from just about anything they can imagine, but unfortunately many have the preconceived notion that their project will be dull and full of dry data with complicated math equations and no room for anything remotely interesting. Of course this is a far cry from the exciting possibilities that are out there for students to explore. Stimulate the imagination of the students in your life by suggesting whatever topic that they get passionate about in their lives and look at the subject through a scientific lens. Interesting ideas could come from anything at all. Everyone gets excited at the idea of cool scientific experiments that many imagine with white lab coat and goggles, glassware and chemicals, and fascinating reactions, but if that is a little much to take on then consider topics exploring the wonders of space, astronomy and physics. If a student has a love for animals, pets, plants, or helping people than there are many avenues to research down that route. Students who are into sports and games can successfully put a spin on their projects by researching topics relating to their favorite games. Solving mysteries is fun and interesting for just about everyone, so a student might look into a topic relating to forensics and could even apply it to current trends in pop culture and current events. Other ideas could involve students building roller coasters or inventing toys and simple devices, exploring the interesting, unusual or unknown. And who wouldn’t get interested in science if it involved delving into the chemical reactions of food and cooking their favorite snacks? The possibilities are endless!
The key to tackling such a project is not only to find a topic that genuinely interests the student, but also breaking the seemingly elaborate and unmanageable task into smaller pieces. As the student achieves each smaller goal, the final deadline and presentation will turn from a looming monster of stress into an exciting finish line of accomplishment. Having teachers, mentors, or educational coaches that can help the student integrate visual tools to set them up for success in their presentation, and learning to use presentation devices such as graphs, charts and diagrams, models, videos, slideshows, posters, and displays will translate into valuable skills for college and beyond.
We all know that science is the future. From the emerging market of technology and the biotech industry that will continue to carry to United States as a leader on the world stage, to fixing the environmental concerns and medical issues that cloud our future, we need to support our students into becoming the ones to solve problems and foster the advancements that make America a world leader in scientific discovery. Not to mention the money to be made in the success of technology. As educational coaches here at ERG, we believe that it is important to work together with parents, teachers, and students to encourage an interest in science. These Science Fair projects are an excellent first step to getting students excited in middle and high school and can lead to more students pursuing science in college (and colleges love successful projects and such achievements). This will open the student up to an array of career opportunities and a successful future in nearly any industry they can imagine. One of the best ways to set them up for success is to get them started loving to learn and desiring to search for answers. The Science Fair can be an amazing first step to open up these doors.