Help your students succeed without the overwhelm! Use these teacher tips for stress-free science projects. This teacher’s guide is full of tips and resources for stress-free teaching.
And be sure to scroll down to print my list of 40 proven science fair projects!
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Do science projects leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed???
Guiding your students through an independent scientific investigation is not for the faint of heart!
Let me show you how you can help your students turn out fantastic projects without the stress.
Science Fair Guide For Teachers
Here’s the good news:
Whether your students are conducting an independent investigation outside of class or a full blown science fair project, you’re in the right place!
A science project does not have to consume two months of your life or bring you to tears! It is totally possible to guide your students through an independent investigation with success.
Here is what I have learned throughout the past ten years of science fair “fun.” 🙂
Teacher Tips for Stress-Free Science Projects
Chances are that your district or curriculum requires one at some point during the year. It can be frustrating and overwhelming for both the students and the teachers. But it doesn’t have to be!
If you are like me, you have high standards for your students but realistic expectations.
My mission for the science project is for students to participate in a meaningful investigation, where they can stretch their abilities and learn something that applies to their everyday life.
Read on to learn teacher tips for stress-free science projects!
Things to Consider Before You Get Started
If students are completing their project at home remember:
- Not all students have access to the same supplies and materials. Even a small project can get costly!
- Not all students have parental support at home. I’ve found that these students need a little extra teacher support and guidance. (Running our project through Google Docs has been a LIFESAVER! Keep reading, I’ll explain more!)
Independent Investigation Contract
Students have big ideas – REALLY BIG. There can be a lot of frustration in the very beginning if parameters aren’t set.
I always begin our science exploration with a contract for the student and the parent to sign. This gets everyone on the same page about project due dates, expectations, and requirements from the very beginning!
Our district’s science fair guidelines prohibit a lot of “fun stuff” – human subjects, hazardous chemicals, projectiles, vertebrates and biological agents (ex: mold and bacteria) – unless we have A LOT of paperwork and a qualified scientist to supervise the project.
I truly hate to start out with things they “can’t do”. But being clear about your guidelines can really prevent a lot of headaches from the beginning! Believe me, I’ve been there!
Getting Started is the Hardest Part!
In my opinion, the HARDEST part, hands down, is helping a student to select a project. The project needs to be interesting enough to work on for several weeks and present a challenge without being too frustrating or costly.
When the project is a good fit, everything runs so much more smoothly!
The Science Buddies website is a great starting point to help students take a big idea and narrow down their choices.
Over time, I have compiled a list of 40 science projects that have been successful with past students. They often find an idea they like and are able to tweak the variables to make the project fit their interests.
Grab your copy in the free resource library!
While difficult for a middle school student, I really try to encourage students to find a project that is meaningful to them. If I had a dime for every student who said they wanted to see how to make an egg float, I would be rich!
Even something as simple (tried and true) as how soft drinks affect their teeth, answers a question that people need to know!
Research is an Important Part
Once the students have a general narrowed down, it’s time for some research!
Simple research helps students understand the nature of the problem and narrow down their topic. This is also a great opportunity for them to find variables they can test.
For example: Maggie wants to learn the best way to store strawberries to keep them fresh. If I put myself in the shoes of a sixth grader, she might “guess” three totally random variables to test – maybe put them in a paper bag, keep them in a dark closet, and put them in the fridge… Can you tell I’ve been there before?!?!?!
Now add the research component. By researching how EXPERTS in the field store strawberries, Maggie might learn that the optimal temperature for storing strawberries is 32-36 degrees Fahrenheit. Now the project can be tweaked to see how temperature affects the freshness of strawberries. This opens up a whole new world of ideas!
See how things are starting to shape up??? 🙂
Chunking is the Key
A science project naturally lends itself to chunking!
In my classroom, I like to break the project into five main parts:
- Topic Selection & Research
- Variables and Hypothesis
- Procedure and Materials
- The Experiment (pictures, data table, graph)
My reason for this is two-fold.
- I can give students feedback as they go. If a student starts to get off track, I can quickly redirect and get the kids back in the right direction.
- The project is more manageable and not as overwhelming!
We are a 1:1 Google District. If you have the ability to go digital, I highly suggest it! I cannot stress how useful and streamlined a digital document is for this type of project.
A digital working document is the best gift you can give yourself in terms of a science project. You can comment on student progress in real time. Be sure to check out my post on 5 Benefits of Switching to Digital Science Fair Boards.
When students have a question, they can direct the questions right to your email (just hit the + and add the email address in the beginning of a comment)! It’s pure magic!
Why I love digital documents:
- Digital documents provide the ultimate organization for a large project.
- Documents stay organized in the folder and never get lost.
- Work is time stamped and can easily be resubmitted after tweaking.
- Students can work collaboratively if you choose to allow partners.
- It is easy to comment in real time and provide feedback instantly.
- Students can link pictures and graphs right into their document for you to see.
- You can easily attach a rubric and highlight their progress – or if you are using Google Classroom, you can now build a rubric right into the assignment!
The Science Fair Board
Since I teach sixth grade, many students have never made a trifold science board. They have no idea where to start or what to put on their board.
Showing students a few sample boards from past students is a great starting point!
I like to provide my students with a guide to setting up their trifold board. This way everything is laid out and organized for display. Students understand the expectations and have a model to use when at home.
Supplies to Rock Your Science Fair Board
Here are a few supplies that you can recommend to students to make assembling their science fair board fast and easy!
Although science projects and independent investigations can be overwhelming, they don’t have to be! Remember to use these teacher tips for stress-free science projects! Your students will have an unforgettable experience and learn skills that will last a lifetime!
Are you feeling overwhelmed thinking about a science project?
Make science projects and independent investigations organized and easy!
This project is broken down into five parts to help students focus on each area. Everything you need to help students be successful from the beginning to the end is included!
- Student contracts – editable
- Extensive project idea list – editable
- Teacher directions
- Investigation Due Dates Paper – editable
- Worksheets divided up into five sections for easy feedback – editable
- Five rubrics – editable
- Final reminders for the project – editable
- Research tips slide presentation – editable
- Science fair display board PDF (helpful for student set up when they are ready to create their board).
Why purchase this product?
- Tested in my classroom for 10+ years
- Extensive list of ideas for students
- Highly organized method broken into 5 manageable chunks
- Easy to use and provides lots of examples to guide students
- Saves you TIME!!
- Ready-to-use rubrics included!
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