Science Fair Ideas

2011 03.08

The Dreaded Science Fair

How to Get Kids Excited About Science Fair Projects





Every year, parents are at a loss when their kids come home from school and ask, "What should I do this year for my science fair experiment?” Some schools require student participation in science fairs, while others offer science fairs as voluntary extracurricular activities. In either case, the most valuable thing you can do for your child is to help them discover an interest in a specific scientific topic and then nurture their natural curiosity until it blossoms into an idea for their own science fair project or experiment.



The first thing you should do is think about interests your child may already have. Do they like sports? Gemstones? Dinosaurs? Computers? Magnets? Animals? Stars? Take an accounting of the hobbies they seem most interested in, and let that help guide you in selecting activities to help foster their scientific curiosity.



Next, get active. There are many different types of activities you can embark upon with your child to help them discover a world full of science:


1)  Go on a hike. The natural world is full of scientific wonder, particularly in the natural sciences of biology and geology. Whether it’s plants, animals, minerals or ecosystems, a hike can fuel a child’s imagination, particularly if you guide them with thoughtful questions like "Why do you think trees grow over here, but not over here?”, and "Why do you think the sky is so blue today?” and "Can you find any evidence of animals around here?” Bring a camera with you and record your observations, then talk about them when you get home. Compare them with other similar photos and information on the Internet, in videos or in books and research topics your child is excited about together.


2)  Get active with experiments and do them with your child. There are a ton of simple experiments, particularly in chemistry and physics, written up and explained on the web which use simple household ingredients, and Be Amazing! also has a large number of science kits you can use to explore different types of science with your child. If your child sees you enjoying yourself by partaking in science, they’re much more likely to get engaged themselves.


3)  Go to a science museum. Most science museums have wonderful interactive exhibits that allow kids to experience all different kinds of science in one place, including biology, chemistry, geology, astronomy, physics, and more. They usually have specially trained professionals on staff to help explain what your child is experiencing in a way that helps foster your child’s curiosity. After your visit, talk with your child about everything they did at the museum. Ask which parts were their favorite and why. When you get home, further explore those topics through the Internet, videos or books.


4)  Explore how things work. If your child loves planes for example, research with them how a plane is able to fly, and then take them to an air show. Children get extremely excited when they see knowledge of something they love put to work and it encourages them to learn more and delve deeper into topics they enjoy. 


5)  Involve your child with organizations. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and 4H organizations all have programs designed to educate children on topics they enjoy and foster an appreciation for science. Many times, an experience they have within one of these organizations can be the catalyst for a great science fair project idea.


Once your child has a good feeling for the topic that interests them, help them hone their idea into a viable experiment, one that satisfies an answer they have or engages their curiosity. Researching and picking a science fair project or experiment topic with your child can be fun, engaging and great bonding experience, as well as educational.



Sources: 

http://www.ehow.com/how_2120179_get-kids-interested-science.html

http://www.exploratorium.edu/


2011 03.08

How to put on a Science Fair

How to Get Sponsors for School Science Fairs




Besides the obvious financial aid procuring a sponsor can provide, Science Fair Sponsors can help generate interest in your school’s science fair on the part of the community, parents and students. Corporate sponsors, who are generally able to give more than individuals and small businesses, may also provide enough financial support to give kids individual budgets for their science fair projects and experiments. 



While getting a large sum of money from a single large sponsor is certainly the simplest way to administrate a sponsorship, it’s not the most common or the easiest. You’ll want to be sure you contact and solicit sponsorship from many different types of organizations, including smaller businesses, larger businesses, non-profit organizations and government agencies. You can create different "levels” of sponsorship to encourage organizations to give more. Usually, sponsorship cash is traded for visibility and advertising in materials that support your Science Fair. For example, people who contribute $100 or less may get their names mentioned on a page in the back of the Science Fair Program. But companies or individuals that contribute $5,000 or more may get their logo on large banners advertising the Science Fair outside the school, or hanging in visible places within the community, or in advertising in the local newspaper for the event, or a company mention in articles in local newspaper about the event, or any combinations of these types of things. The more value you can offer for each level of sponsorship, the more interest you will generate for those higher levels.



Once you’ve figured out the structure for your sponsorship program, you’ll want to make your school science fair as attractive as possible to would-be sponsors.



1)     If your school doesn’t already have one, create a web page on your school’s website for your science fair. Include photos and stories on past winners and be sure to highlight the student’s enthusiasm and ingenuity. Include information on the science fair, like how long it’s been going on, and what the goal of the fair is, particularly for students. Include all the information on the sponsorship program and contact information for enquiring about becoming a sponsor. You may even want to include information on the participants for the coming year (once you know who they are) and any special programs or themes that may be part of the science fair, or any special guests or judges that may be visiting. This will help companies evaluate whether it is worth sponsoring your event or not.


2) Put together a flyer outlining your science fair sponsorship packages. This content can be very similar to the website, but keep it short and to the point, and do not include extra information on the fair itself. For that information, refer them to your webpage by placing the URL in the flyer.


3) Put together a list of companies that your school does business with on a regular basis. This would include food and drink companies, utility companies, product supply companies, student textbook companies, etc. Ask people on the school’s staff who deal with these companies to distribute your sponsorship flyer to their contacts, or, get the contacts’ names and distribute them yourselves. Companies who are already doing business with you are more likely to become a sponsor than those who do not.


4) Go to your local chamber of commerce and find out if they can provide a list of all the businesses in your area that would be interested in sponsoring your event. The list sometimes costs money to purchase, but if you are with a public school or non-profit organization, you can sometimes get them for free. Distribute your flyer to these organizations, as well.


5) Make a list of big companies and check their websites to see if they are able to sponsor individual schools. If they do, contact the appropriate people within the companies and ask if they can contribute money or time. If they can’t do either, ask them if they might be willing to contribute a prize, like a microscope or telescope.


6) Get the local paper to do a story on your science fair. Most local papers are always looking for good stories to write. Work with the editor to come up with a great article and be sure they include the sponsorship information (the very least would be a link back to your webpage to find out more about being a sponsor).


7) Ask your students to take home the flyer and distribute it to their parents. Sometimes, parents work at companies that are willing sponsors, particularly if their employees have children involved in your science fair event.


Sources:

http://www.ehow.com/how_5882496_sponsors-school-science-fairs.html


2011 03.08

The Words of Science

Chemistry and Science Experiments




Chemistry is a very big subject. It covers lots of different types of reactions and scientific topics, and so there are lots of special words that have specific meanings in chemistry that you don’t normally hear in everyday conversation. They describe lots of cool things, and so here is a list of some of our favorites. See if you can make a list of your own! In fact, go ahead and send us a list of your favorite chemistry words, and we may even feature your list in this blog! How cool is that?


Aqueous: Of, like or containing water. For example, salt water is an "aqueous” solution, meaning salt has been dissolved in water to make the end product. There are lots of science fair experiments that use the properties of water to demonstrate other chemistry principals. Can you think of any off the top of your head?


Catalyst: Something that speeds up or enables a chemical reaction, but without being consumed by the chemical reaction. There are lots of enzymes in our body that are catalysts and help us digest food, power our muscles, and even help us read and understand this blog post! Bet you could come up with some neat science fair projects talking about important catalysts in our body!


Emulsion: When drops of one liquid are suspended in another. A good example is when you mix oil and vinegar for salad dressing. A great science fair project is creating a lava lamp using oil, water and alka seltzer. You can find out how to do that here.


Endothermic: When a process or chemical reaction absorbs energy, and usually becomes cold. Can you think of times when you’ve seen a substance get cold because of a chemical reaction? How about when you use canned air to clean dust off a computer keyboard? Why do you think the can gets so cold? You could do a science fair project on this topic alone!


Exothermic: When a process, or chemical reaction, gives off energy, usually as heat. Some of the best science fair projects explain why chemical reactions are exothermic.


Mass: The amount of stuff found in an object. The more mass, the heavier and denser an object becomes. Which do you think has more mass? Air that fills up a gallon jug or water that fills up a gallon jug? How about the same jug full of dried cement? Why?


Polymer: A molecule that contains many repeating chemical units. Plastics are polymers and so is our Slime! Our Slime has been used numerous times by kids as part of their science experiments, and it’s always fun to play with the result!


Solute: The solid that gets dissolved in a liquid. In salt water, the solute is salt.


Super cooling: When you cool something below its freezing point. Have you ever seen what happens to a flower that is dropped into liquid Nitrogen? There are lots of neat videos on Super cooling out there. Ask your parents to help you find some.


Vaporization: When a liquid is heated enough that it becomes a gas. Steam coming off a hot bowl of soup is water that has been vaporized. What happens if you add ice? If you change the types of liquids you put in the bowl? Funny to think that a bowl of soup can be the starting point for a neat science fair project!

2011 03.08

Great Science Fair Ideas

Science Fair Project Ideas and Cool Science Experiments That Celebrate 

the International Year of Chemistry



2011: The International Year of Chemistry





Chemistry is amazing. It’s an important part of all sorts of things, like how our bodies work, how cars move, how snow is made and why our favorite drinks taste the way they do. In fact, chemistry is pretty much at the heart of everything that exists out there in the universe.


 

In recognition of how important (and how cool) chemistry is, 2011 has been dubbed the International Year of Chemistry (IYC). You can visit www.chemistry2011.org and read more about the major achievements happening in the field of chemistry and chemistry’s contributions to the well-being of humankind.



One of the biggest goals of the IYC Celebration is to get kids and teens interested in chemistry because kids are the future! The IYC suggests visiting local companies that create products like food, medical products, textiles, chemical products and fuel to see how chemistry is being put to work everyday to make our lives better and easier. People can even coordinate field trips with groups of friends, family, schools or community organizations, or invite people who work in the chemistry field to come in and talk about their jobs and what they’re like. There are lots of neat suggestions on the IYC website for getting involved in Chemistry and learning about how it influences our lives, so be sure to visit it and see what other activities they suggest.



Chemistry Science Fair Projects And Chemistry Science Experiments



Another great way to get familiar with the amazing field of chemistry is to start exploring chemistry through science fair projects and science experiments. Because there is so much amazing chemistry out there, it can be a little daunting to try and figure out what one chemistry topic or principal you’d like to explore for your own chemistry science fair project or chemistry science experiment. To help, we’ve compiled a list of neat projects and experiments that are fun, fairly simple and provide great insight into this very cool field of science.



What is Chemistry? 

Before you decide on a chemistry science fair project or chemistry science experiment, it’s a good idea to understand what chemistry is, exactly. Chemistry is the study of the composition and properties of elemental forms of matter and the substances they combine to create. Believe it or not, cooking is a great example of chemistry, because the application of heat, cold, or exposing certain substances to each other can change the chemical makeup of the original ingredients and make new ones, and this results in all different types of foods and flavors. Other examples of chemistry projects and experiments are growing crystals, making your own lava lamp, or creating invisible ink that magically appears with secret "decoder” ingredients.



Samples of Chemistry Science Fair Projects and Science Experiments



Below are some really fun (and relatively simple) chemistry science fair projects and chemistry science experiments for you to read through. You may decide to go ahead and pick one of these as your science project or experiment, or maybe it’ll give you ideas for other science projects or experiments that you design on your own. 



Be Amazing! Toys also has some really cool chemistry science kits and really easy chemistry science fair projects and chemistry science experiments that you can use for your chemistry science fair projects or science experiments, as well. For additional ideas, check out the chemistry section of our previous article on science fair projects and science experiments.



Chemistry Science Fair Projects and Science Experiments



1. Lava Lamp


Lava lamps that you see in stores are pretty amazing: they have blobs of colored stuff that float slowly up and down in a cylinder of liquid that’s lit from beneath. While the lava lamps you buy for your home use complex chemical reactions that involve high temperatures and electricity, you can make one at home using simple ingredients you find in your kitchen! How cool is that?



What you’ll need:



  • 1-liter clear plastic bottle, with cap
  • A bottle of vegetable oil
  • Water
  • Liquid food coloring
  • Alka seltzer tablets
  • A flashlight



Fill your bottle with vegetable oil, to about one inch from the top. Then add about a tablespoon of water. Add a few drops of food coloring to the water (the water will be sitting on top of the oil – why do you think that happens?). Use a dark color like blue or red, or a color that will contrast with the color of the oil. Yellow food coloring doesn’t work as well, particularly with oils like corn oil. Then, break a single Alka Seltzer tablet into pieces and drop all the pieces into the bottle. Put the cap on the bottle and seal it tightly. Place the flashlight behind the bottle so it shines through the liquid and watch the reaction in the bottle. It looks a lot like a lava lamp, doesn’t it? 



When the reaction starts to slow down, feel free to break up more Alka Seltzer tablets and add them to the bottle to restart the reaction. What exactly is happening in the bottle? Why does the movement start when you put in a fresh Alka Seltzer tablet and slow down after a while? Why is the color moving through the oil in "blobs”? 



2. Baking Soda Invisible Ink



You’ve probably seen movies or TV shows where spies use sneaky ways to get messages to each other. Well, you can sneak important messages to your friends or family by using invisible inks that magically appear when treated with a "secret ingredient”! All you need are a few simple household ingredients and some chemistry knowledge, and you’re on your way to being mysterious, intriguing and smart, as well as having an amazing science fair project or science experiment!



What you’ll need:



      • Baking soda
      • Water
      • Purple grape juice concentrate
      • A cotton swab, toothpick or paintbrush for writing with your invisible ink
      • A piece of regular white paper



Mix the baking soda with equal parts water. Depending on the length of your message, a tablespoon of each will usually do the trick. Dip your "pen” (cotton swab, toothpick or paintbrush) into the mixture and write your secret message out on the paper. Be sure that your "pen” stays moist and full of ink as you write, so the whole message appears when you add the secret "decoder” ingredient later. Once you have finished your message, let the paper dry completely.



Once dry, you can read the message one of two ways. The first is to use purple grape juice concentrate. The concentrate will cause an acid-base reaction with your ink. Get a brush and dip it into the juice and then brush it across your paper. Be sure to coat it well, and be sure not to get any grape juice on your clothes or on counters that can stain. After a few minutes, what happens? Can you read your message? How does the acid-base reaction cause the ink to be readable?



The second way to read your message is to take your message (a different one that has not been decoded yet with grape juice) and hold it up to a tungsten light bulb that has been on for a bit. Be sure to use a regular light bulb and not a halogen bulb (halogen bulbs are too hot). 



Also be sure that the paper isn’t touching the bulb and that the paper itself doesn’t start to burn, smoke or turn brown. Make sure to have an adult with you if you choose to decode your message with this method. The light bulb will heat the paper and the ink. What happens? Are you able to see the hidden message? Why do you think the "ink” suddenly becomes visible with the addition of heat?



3. Grow a Big Crystal




Crystals are really cool, and growing them is a great chemistry science fair project or chemistry science experiment. The easiest crystals to grow are alum crystals. They are non-toxic and can be grown by stuff you find in your kitchen.



What you’ll need:



      • 2 clean jars (1 quart mason jars – the kind that you make jellies or candles in – work the best
      • ½ cup of hot tap water
      • 2 ½ Tablespoons of alum (you can buy it in the spice section of grocery stores if your parents don’t have any handy)
      • Nylon fishing line
      • A Popsicle stick, pencil, ruler or butter knife
      • A spoon
      • A paper coffee filter or paper towel

Pour ½ cup of hot tap water into one of your two jars. Make sure the jars are clean and dry. Slowly stir in the alum. Alum is non-toxic. It’s used to make pickles and keeps them crispy. Don’t add all the Alum at once. You’ll want to slowly add it and keep stirring the solution until it the little bit you’ve added has dissolved into the water. Then add a little more and stir it again until it disappears. Keep doing this until the alum stops dissolving in the solution. You probably won’t need the whole 2 ½ tablespoons, but it all depends on the size of your jar. If you do use all of it and it’s still dissolving in your solution, then get more and keep adding it until it stops.



Once you’ve saturated your solution with alum, cover the jar with the coffee filter or a paper towel to keep dust out, and leave the jar sit overnight. The next day, you’ll see some small crystals at the bottom of the jar. Pour the liquid into your other clean jar so you can get at the crystals that formed on the bottom. Pick the largest and best formed of these crystals and throw away the rest. This is going to be your "seed” crystal from which you’ll grow a single, big crystal.



Tie the nylon fishing wire firmly around the crystal and then tie the other end to a flat object (popsicle stick, pencil, ruler or butter knife). You’re going to be hanging your crystal in the jar from this flat object, so you want to be sure that line is the correct length: you’ll want the crystal to be suspended in the middle of the jar but not too close to the bottom. You may need to adjust the length of the fishing wire until the crystal is positioned correctly in the jar.



Once the line is at the right length, hang the crystal in the jar with the alum solution and cover it with your coffee filter or paper towel. Leave it soaking in the solution and watch it grow! It can take up to a few weeks for the crystal to grow to a significant size. The longer you leave it grow, the larger it will get.



If crystals start growing on the side or bottom of your jar, pour the solution back into the first jar (which you’ve cleaned since you used it the first time) and hang your crystal in this jar with the liquid. Other crystals will compete with your crystal, so you don’t want them growing in the same jar or yours will not grow as large as it could.



Why do you think crystals start to grow in the solution? Why does your crystal keep growing larger over time? How does the shape of your crystal tell you about the chemicals that are in the solution?




Additional Ideas from Be Amazing! Toys


The scientists at Be Amazing! Toys avidly support the International Year of Chemistry, and they have put together a list of science kits and toys that are great chemistry science fair projects and chemistry science experiments. These science projects and science experiments are very cool and use common materials from around the house. They are easy to perform and use everyday ingredients like Mentos, Diet Coke, and magnets, yet they result is some of the neatest stuff your friends and family have seen. Here are some of their most popular kits:



1. The Amazing Diet Coke and Mentos Geyser TubeTM Experiment


Not only are Mentos® great to eat, but these amazing candies are loaded with wonder and curiosity. The Amazing Diet Coke and Mentos Geyser Tube Experiment teaches you how to create an enormous geyser by combining Mentos® with soda. The eruption is incredible – up to 25’ high – and so is the learning if you consider the science just beneath the surface. The Geyser Tube™ allows you to load the candies and safely dispense them into the soda bottle.



2. Cool Slime


Have you been searching for the perfect slime? Look no further! The Cool Slime Kit contains two liquids that when mixed together, make the perfect batch of green, gooey slime every time (maniacal mad scientist laughter is optional.) Along the way, you’ll learn about molecules, polymers, and the safe and amazing chemical reaction that turns two innocent-looking liquids into a blob of oozy, green goo. 



Once you are done making slime, the enclosed directions walk you through some amazing slime games. The slime is lots of fun to play with, and can be stored in a zipper-lock bag until you are ready to play with it again. The liquid slime components store in their bottles for even longer, so you can whip up a batch of slime whenever your inner mad-scientist demands it.



3. Blizzard in a Bucket


Blizzard in a Bucket is a cool new twist on the old sand bucket. Just add water to a scoop of Insta-Snow® powder to create an eruption of snow – instantly! Watch Insta-Snow® grow as it expands 100 times its original size. But that’s not all – there are many more fun science experiments inside. 



Using this kit you can instantly grow snow and make loads of it, just by adding water. You can make a Scientific Sno-ball that looks and feels like the real thing, even in the summer! You can learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about snow, like why is it white? Are all snowflakes really different? Blizzard in a Bucket is full of lots of great exploration ideas.



4. Superabsorbent CrystalsTM


Get ready for some squishy, jelly, science fun! The Superabsorbent CrystalsTM kit contains an amazing substance called the superabsorbent polymer, which means that by adding water, you can turn these tiny crystals into big, squishy crystals made of goo! 



These incredible crystals are members of an amazing scientific family called the superabsorbents, and they drink up 150-300 times their weight in water. When removed from water, they shrink back down to their original size, and can be used again and again. You can learn to make them disappear and reappear like magic (except that it’s better than magic – it’s SCIENCE!) The instructions are packed with intriguing activities that make great hands-on activities or science fair projects. 



With your adult assistant’s help, the possibilities for discovery are only limited by your imagination. Set up a laboratory with a water-safe surface and get ready to explore! Find out the answers to questions like: Do crystals grow in anything besides water? What happens if food coloring is added to the water before you drop your crystals in the water? What will happen to the jelly crystals if you put them in the freezer? Can you use jelly crystals to sprout seeds?




What else can you think of?



Sources:



  1. BeAmazing Toys: http://www.beamazing.com.
  2. Lava Lamp – Make a Lava Lamp, by Anne Marie Helmenstine:  http://chemistry.about.com/od/homeexperiments/a/makealavalamp.htm
  3. How to Make Invisible Ink – Baking Soda, by Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D: http://chemistry.about.com/cs/howtos/ht/invisibleink2.htm
  4. How to Grow a Big Alum Crystal, by Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D: http://chemistry.about.com/cs/howtos/ht/alumcrystal.htm.

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