Elementary school science fairs and contests can be among the most interesting (and nerve wracking) experiences of our lives. We’re lucky to have those moments of hands-on, trial-by-fire learning. Because if it wasn’t for the shock of breaking glass with a tuning fork or the miracle of growing a stalk from a bean, those memories of surprise and discovery might slip away from us.
And students nowadays are even luckier. Since the rise of the internet, creative and interactive lessons are easier to find and share. Teachers have struggled to find better ways to bridge the gap between scientific concepts and realities for centuries, and today, science projects have never been more fun or innovative.
Start at the Scientific Method
One of the greatest lessons science projects instill in students is an understanding of the scientific method. Developed in the 17th century, the scientific method was established as a way to prove a theory or hypothesis by rationally observing and recording changes in phenomena. This unique, time-tested method has not only helped human civilization advance tremendously over the last several centuries, but is easy enough for even children to understand and apply in their own lives.
One of the most effective means of teaching the scientific method and its importance to students is by having them complete a science project that allows them to observe how science works in an interactive way.
Three Amazing DIY Science Projects
By conducting a quick search online, or at your local library, any middle or high school student can discover a huge number of DIY science projects ideas. Below, you’ll find three fun and engaging projects that are easy to replicate at home.
And remember, while these projects can be with common materials found throughout the house, kids should always get their parents or guardians involved to help out with material collection and project replication. Adult supervision is especially important if a chosen project involves potentially dangerous chemicals or objects.
- Large piece of cardboard
- Small/average size plastic bottle
- Old newspaper
- White PVA or wallpaper glue
- Sticky tape
- Roll of toilet paper
- Emulsion paint
- Acrylic paint
- Food coloring
- Baking soda
- Vinegar or lemon acid
- Soap flakes or starch
This common science project has amazed kids and adults alike for decades. This particular take on the homemade volcano helps students to gain a basic understanding of how chemical reactions work. The project also helps students develop their own artistic sense by creating a life-like volcano using paint and paper mache.
The student’s hypothesis for the project is simple: if one were to mix household baking soda with vinegar or lemon acid, one can expect to see something similar to a volcanic eruption. Sure enough, once the volcanic mountain is complete, mixing together baking soda with an acidic substance does in fact create a reaction that is similar to that of a volcano spewing lava. Adding food coloring to the mixture ensures even more realistic results!
- Foil pie plate
- Ball point pen
- Wool sock
- Styrofoam block
- Video camera (if available)
- Notebook or journal
This project demonstrates how static electricity can be harnessed to create lightning. Of the materials listed above, the foil pie plate, pen and a tack act as a conductor for static electricity. The woolen sock and styrofoam block are used to actually create the negative charge needed to make the experiment work.
The video camera and notebook should be used by students to record their observations and results. By conducting this project with the help and supervision of an adult, young scientists can create a makeshift lightning generator to impress their parents, friends and teachers.
- 2x Large pickle jars
- 1x Small houseplant
- 2x Thermometers
- Carbon Dioxide (optional)
Since we live in an era with so many conflicting viewpoints on the existence and potential dangers of global warming, experiments such as this one should help students see first hand how plants and nature do a great deal to help reduce the environmental impact of greenhouse gasses.
By simply placing two jars next to a sunny window, the student can record how quickly the inside of the jars heat up by placing a thermometer into each of the jars. By placing a houseplant in one of the jars and leaving both jars in the sun for an hour or two, the student can observe and record how different the two temperatures become. The student’s proven hypothesis will indicate that protecting nature is a key component to fighting the effects of global warming.
The Importance of Project-Based Learning
Science projects have, and will continue to be, excellent methods for educating young people on the value and importance of science. These three projects alone cover several complex scientific ideas in a simple, interactive and fun way.
Science projects are a powerful tool for science teachers and students, but who knows? Maybe your student’s project could turn out to be some of the biggest scientific breakthroughs in history…
This is a cross-post from our content partners at TeachingDegree.Org