Finding the Best Science Fair Project Ideas
I'll be honest: I'm a science junkie. I've always been interested in how the world works and the laws that govern the universe. You'd think that science fairs would be my bread and butter, but as a child I really struggled with coming up a good concept. Thankfully you have something that I didn't: the Internet!
Finding an easy and interesting science fair project idea can be really daunting, and sometimes a kid needs a push in the right direction. A bit of brainstorming and help from a friend, parent or mentor can really get the creative juices going, and that's something I really needed at the time.
This article is intended to help! We'll be taking a look at a handful of the best science fair project ideas and experiments. I don't want to overwhelm anyone, so I'll be focused on simple ideas that anyone can tackle. There's plenty of room to be creative, and I always encourage a child to make a project their own.
I'll look at five great science fair experiments for kids and give a brief overview of how it can work. The rest is up to you!
Fish Colour Psychology: Simple, Fun & Creative
This idea is pretty straightforward, but there is a ton of room for a bright student to be creative and really make the experiment their own. It's also relatively inexpensive, and it allows for a lot of observation and hypothesis.
The concept is simple: You get a small fish tank and some goldfish (or guppies, or similar small fish). Then, take two large pieces of colored cardboard or paper and affix each one to one half of the back of the tank. The idea is to make it so that half of the tank has, say, a blue background and the other half has a red background.
Then you observe the fish, and see which half of the tank they hang out in the most. That way you can see what their color preference is, and you can make observations and hypotheses based on that.
You can mix it up too: use a pattern instead of a solid color. Another idea is to illuminate half the tank, and leave the other half in darkness, and see which side the fish prefer.
You could also have multiple species of fish in the tank (make sure they get along!) and see how color preference changes from one species to the next!
It's a simple and fairly inexpensive science fair project idea for kids that is easy to set up. Plus your child gets a few pets out of the deal, so they'll probably be excited.
Plants & Soil: An Easy & Educational Idea for Green Thumbs
You can have a lot of fun with plants and soil, and many great science fair projects for children use this as the starting point. It's also of great interest to science because agriculture is going to be a bigger deal in the next century with population on the rise.
The concept here is deceptively simple: plant the seeds of a fast growing plant in a variety of soils, and see how they do. Take careful note of when they sprout, how long it takes for them to reach maturity, and how healthy they are. Make hypotheses about why a certain type of soil, light or water is more effective than another.
You can mix up the soil types: try watering one regularly, and watering the other irregularly. You can try crazy stuff like microwaving the water beforehand and see if the microwaves affect growth. Try using tap water versus distilled.
You can play with the light source too. Try planting three seeds and having a different kind of light bulb over each one, incandescent, fluorescent and LED. There's a lot of possibility here and I'm sure any child can make it unique.
As for what to plant, I'd recommend sprouts or beans, because they sprout quickly. A garlic bulb will root and sprout quickly too.
In any event, plants and soil make one of the best science fair projects for kids; it's easy and fun to do.
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Build a Battery: A cool science fair project concept for children
Electricity is all around us, and it's a big part of our world and our lives today. For that reason, a science fair experiment involving safe use and understanding of electricity can be a really great educational experience, not to mention fun!
It's actually pretty simple to build a battery, and it's a great science fair experiment project because many people aren't aware of the latent electrical charge around them.
You can actually make a working battery using nothing more than a glass, a strip of aluminum and copper, and a can of coke! You can link up several of these 'cells' in series to create a working battery out of household items that can power a small LED light bulb!
There is a ton of free information out there for how to put together batteries using everything from your own hands to a lemon or a potato. The only thing that will be helpful is a simple electric multimeter, but you can find those easily at a hardware store.
Building your own battery is a wonderful science fair experiment that kids of all ages can get into, definitely a great choice for someone who loves understanding how things work.
Perpetual Motion Flask: A simple yet fascinating project / experiment
The elusive perpetual motion machine has been something that many engineers and scientists have pondered. One entrant into the field was the self flowing flask, originally created by Robert Boyle in the 17th century. It's a fascinating little system that's actually not terribly difficult to reproduce.
You'll need a large flask, which narrows down into a tube. That tube then curves back up to feed into the large flask again. Gravity forces the water down in the large flask (due to the weight of the water itself), which then flows up the tube and feeds the large flask again. To see it working, watch the video to the right (it's the first example).
While I wouldn't technically consider it a perpetual motion machine, it's a fascinating look at how gravity and friction interact. I definitely recommend using a food coloring in the water to make it more visible.
It seems to me that you could easily make one using some tubing, a large plastic bottle and a simple frame of some kind. If you wanted to get really fancy, you could try to make the water flow power something along the way (a water wheel, perhaps?) and see how that affects it.
It's a cool little science fair experiment idea that's worth looking into, especially if you've got a budding engineer on your hands!
Build a Water Filter: A good science fair focus for future environmentalists
An interesting and fun challenge for any child participating in a science fair is to create a water filter from common items. It's a pretty simple concept and it's easy to get a kid excited about it too. Make a big batch of filthy water. Try to get that water as clean and clear as possible.
There are a lot of different ways to do this one, but the easiest one I can think of off the top of my head is to use a half soda bottle. Put some kind of filter in the neck, and then fill it with various types of filters. Sand, gravel, activated charcoal, or whatever the child thinks might help.
You can have several different bottles containing different filtering elements, and cross examine the results to see which one comes out the cleanest. They can make hypotheses about why certain substances filter out particles better than others.
I obviously don't recommend ever drinking the end result water, no matter how clean it looks! But it's a fun and cool experiment for science fair entrants that's sure to be a hit.
Choosing the Best One for your Child
Ultimately, the goal of a science fair is to get kids thinking creatively about ways they can interact with science and the world around us. You want them to use that creativity and start fostering an interest in the natural world and ways to improve our lives and increase our understanding.
It's never about winning a prize or being the best at something. The best science fairs are the kind where children wander around with a look of wonder and absorb all sorts of new information from their peers. If they win a prize it's just a bonus.
Did I miss anything? What did you, your child or someone you know do for their experiment, and how did it go? Please leave comments at the bottom of this page.
Thanks for reading!