As a parent, you might start to panic when your child returns home from school with a list of things they’ll need for the annual science fair. Before you start shopping around for the lowest price on three-fold display boards, take a moment to consider the bigger picture.
Children are naturally curious about exploring new things. Science projects help them to strengthen their reasoning and build skills they’ll need to master future technology in the workplace and in their personal lives.
Pitch in by providing psychological and practical support that will make the science fair one step in enhancing their all-round science education.
Tips on Providing Psychological Support
1. Teach economics. Comedians like to say that science fairs test a hypothesis about which parents are prepared to spend the most. If you’re concerned about the cost of certain supplies, talk with your child’s teacher about substitutions. Many great projects require nothing more than ordinary household items.
2. Encourage leadership. Show your enthusiasm, but ensure your child stays in charge of the activities. Their project is their responsibility.
3. Demonstrate collaboration. Scientists succeed by sharing information and building on each other’s discoveries. Bring out your child’s class spirit by taking an interest in their friends’ projects too. You may even want to ask about volunteering to assist the whole class.
4. Provide an audience. While your child is guiding the proceedings, you can serve as a sounding board and cheerleader. Ask helpful questions and praise their efforts.
5. Celebrate victories. Your child can feel like a winner even if the judges decide to recognize other entries. Plan a special ceremony when you arrive back home with cake and prizes. Surprise them with a membership at the local science museum or their very own telescope.
6. Cultivate a love for science. The most valuable takeaway from the evening is stimulating your child’s interest in learning and experimentation. Incorporate science lessons into your daily lives.
7. Have fun. While education is serious, your child will learn more when they’re enjoying themselves. Think positive and be creative.
Tips on Providing Practical Support
1. Select an appropriate subject. Picking a topic is the first step. You may want to present options that reflect your child’s personal interests in soccer or horses. Keep their age and abilities in mind too.
2. Conduct research. Younger children will need pointers on how to go about a scientific inquiry. Brainstorm on keywords and visit the library together. Assemble a reading list and talk about how to take notes and organize data.
3. Arrange transportation. Many schools will require those display boards to be dropped off a few days before the fair itself. Consult the schedule and make room in your car.
4. Manage time. In fact, going over the schedule with your child will help you to meet all the interim and final deadlines. Work backwards from the day of the fair to figure out how much time you need for each step, and build in time for unexpected delays.
5. Monitor safety. As the adult, you’ll need to keep an eye out for any safety hazards. Provide close supervision if there’s electricity or chemicals involved. If necessary, teach your child the proper use of protective equipment like goggles or gloves.
Whether your child wins a science fair trophy or not, they can sharpen their critical thinking skills and develop a greater appreciation for the world around them. Working on science projects gives you an opportunity to spend time together and participate in enhancing your child’s education.