Science Projects were easier in elementary school. Back then, you could submit a model rocket, an egg sucked into a bottle, or a simple science report on electricity. It's different in middle school. Middle School science teachers want creative ideas, specific elements, in depth research, and detailed logs of the whole science fair process.
Finding a middle school science project that meets all these criteria has always been a challenge for our family. Our teachers wanted an experiment based, investigative project for the science fair. There are five different types of science projects, but most of the books in the library had projects that were actually demonstrations or models. It's very important that you read the directions from your teacher and / or the science fair, and make sure that the project your child chooses fits into the right category – especially in middle school.
Here are the five types of projects.
1. Investigative projects – Most science fairs require students to submit an investigative science project. This type of project has an experiment that tests an hypothesis. The experiment will follow the scientific method, and may require a control group. (If you're unfamiliar with this vocabulary, check out the free resource below!)
An example of an investigative project would be "How does salt affect the boiling point of water?" This can easily be tested by our experiment which adds different amounts of salt to water and recording the temperature at which it boils.
If you see the words experiment, scientific method, control and / or variable on the project instructions, you'll probably need an investigative project. As mentioned before, they're not easy to find.
2. Demonstration projects – In this type of project a student demonstrate a scientific principle, and lots of time the teacher wants it presented in front of the class as an oral report. There is no true experiment performed, because there won't be a control or different variables.
3. Research project – Basically this is a science report. Students research a topic, and write what they discovered. Any type of science topic can be used for a research project.
4. Models – For a model project, models are built to explain a scientific principle or structure.
5. Collections – In this type of project a collection of objects is displayed to give an overview of a topic. An example would be a rock collection or a display showing pictures of various animals in a specific family.
Every middle school science fair will have slightly different criteria for projects. As you search for a project, make sure it's the type of project your school requires. If you need help, check out " The Non-Scientist Parent's Guide to Science Fair Projects ", which has guides for all the different types of science projects – including the experiment based ones! There is a vocabulary list that gives simple definitions to those vocabulary words you learned in middle school, but promptly forgot.
Believe it or not, science projects are designed to help students learn about science. Figure out which type of project your school requires, and you'll be one step closer to showing your child how much fun science can be!