In this page you will find a short definition of science projects: what are they, age consideration, suggestions about how to choose and conduct a science experiment. The examples included here are connected to aviation but you can choose any topic from any filed of knowledge. The principles are the same.
One of the most important criteria to choose science projects is the age of your child.Also,you will have to change your methods as your child will grow.As a rule of thumb, choosing a science project according to the children age will save both of you a lot of frustration. After all, your goal is not to win the Nobel Prize but to have fun with your child in an educative environment.
In general, there are five categories of science projects:
4.Reports with posters
The projects included in this site are from all categories. Personally I prefer the 5th category but you have to consider the age of the child when you chose a science project or another. But first, let’s see what each category means:
These are the most simple science projects you can do and are well suited for young ages. The only thing you have to do is build a simple model on your topic and talk about it with your child. You can use any materials, Lego bricks, clay, paper, etc.
The children talk about their pet or about an animal. This science project includes some research at the library and observation of the animal characteristics or behavior.
You don’t have to think here about school laboratories equipped with Bunsen burners, test tubes, etc. A home kitchen or basement as well as your backyard can suit very well the purpose of most experiments. Usually, the ideas for the experiments can be found in different textbooks and it should not be to hard to find some good ones adapted to the age of your children.
Most of these science projects consist in some library research with the conclusions presented through posters or slide shows. Even if it sounds easy, some of these projects may involve a lot of work.
The simplest definition states that an investigation science projects should answer a question on a topic. The student has to plan the science project, do some library research, perform some experiments, analyze the results and draw a conclusion. As you can see, an investigative project requires more work and more thinking. Also, these types of projects are more beneficial if the student already have a base of knowledge and if he can perform most of the task by himself, without the interference of an adult.
As you can see, there are no strict delimitation between these categories and all of them have some characteristics in common.
There are a few steps that you can follow after you have decided on the project category:
1.Chose a topic
2.Plan the experiment
3.Choose the equipment and the procedures
4.Record and represent your data
6.Report your results
Note: The step no.6 is not very important unless you do a project for school.
From my experience, it is very important to let your child choosing the topic. It’s not important what you think it’s interesting but what the child want to play with. I can’t emphasize enough how important is to let you child “lead the way”. If he will feel that it is forced to do something he might reject everything and it will take you a lot of time and diplomacy to bring him back to the benchmark. If you are really interested in a subject you can talk a little more about it and suggest some experiments that your child might chose.
For small kids, the most interesting topic is the evolution of flight in the animal world. They will love to learn about insects, birds and flying mammals. You can teach them about the evolution of flight by asking them to compare different wings. With older kids you can try some experiments in aerodynamic (airfoil). With older kids you can try some flight simulators and some topics regarding the history oh human flight (technological developments, biographies).
This should not be very complicated. For young kids it will be enough to state what are you looking for and where and what tools are you going to use. For older kids you can try to be more specific and state the purpose of the experiment (statement of purpose), the equipment to be use (make a list), the test procedure (the process you will use to do the experiment), data analysis (how will you calculate graph and analyze the measurements) and the report format (written report, power point presentation, display).
This step is to be considered only with older kids. Look around your home and you will find some basic tools that will be enough to conduct your experiment (rulers protractor, cups thermometer, locks, paper, etc.).The aviation projects described in the PROJECTS page are pretty simple and you will need only some light balls, sheets of paper, scissors and hair blower to conduct them.
One example is the astrolabe. This is an instrument used to measure the heights of distant objects and you can build one from a protractor and a weighted string. I have used the astrolabe to measure distant objects and the heights reached by the rockets
For some aviation projects you will need a small RC plane but that is not critical. If your child (and you, of course) has this hobby, you probably have already a radio-controlled plane. There will be situations where you will have to build some pieces of equipment.
The procedure of a science experiment consists in a step-by-step description of the process. This will help you stay organized and focus on your objective. The format of this description should be simple and clear. This is not the place to write an essay. Simple list with short sentences for every step will be enough.
The recording of your data means to write down the measurements you are taking during the experiment according to your procedure. Here you can be flexible. If you will realize that you are on a wrong path, step back and change your plan. It is very important here to stay organized. You can make up a form with spaces and columns for the information and variables that your test will consider.
During your experiment record everything neatly and completely. This will help you to draw the final conclusion and to present the results. The data you have collected can be represented in multiple graph formats. You should chose the most appropriate format that can represent your data and explain your findings to others. The graphs can be done manually or you can use a specialized computer program (Excel).
The conclusions of your science project consist in clear and simple sentences, one thought per sentence. They should follow right after your data graphs so the readers of your project will be able to see them easy. If you feel you have not done everything possible in your project, state that as well.
Now it is the time of a written report. If you have done you work right and if you have been organized during your experiment this will be easy.basically,you will describe in short and concise sentences all the steps you have followed so far.Place photographs and diagrams were they are needed. You can report your project as a poster or a table display .
In conclusion I want to mention again that you don’t have to follow every time all the steps presented above. As a parent your goal is to connect with your child through an educative and meaningful play .You have to enjoy “getting dirty” together and be careful not to push you child. This is not a competition!
Of course, you can be more rigorous if you are working for a science-fair project with an older child. This is a different story and I will suggest you to consult more resources.