STEAM: Science Fair Ideas for Elementary

February 19, 2018
Written by:
Tasha Swearingen

Are you ready to create concoctions and explosions? It’s science fair time and that’s exactly the type of thing your student will get to do! Preparing for the science fair pays off in big ways because your child learns far more than just science concepts throughout the process of putting together an experiment. For many kids, the science fair is also the first big research paper they’ll write. As such, it’s a great time to have them hone in on library and computer research skills. But where do you even begin?

Look Locally

The first step in participating in the science fair is to find one near you. If you belong to a homeschool co-op, your group may already be putting one on. If not, you could either volunteer to run it or search elsewhere. Some ideas include other homeschooling groups (many are open to you participating in this specific event) or checking the library to see if they plan to host a community science fair. Additionally, private schools are often open to allowing homeschoolers to participate in their science fair.

Deciding on a Project

With so many project ideas readily available, how do you decide which one to do? There are some things to take into consideration, such as materials required and access to those materials. You’ll also want to consider the project’s length. If you only have one month before the science fair, your child won’t have time for a project that takes two months to grow. Your child will also want to consider the rules of the science fair itself. If the rules say your child must spend a certain amount of time manipulating variables in certain types of projects but you don’t have that amount of time left, that’s an easy way to eliminate that project.

There are essentially five different types of projects.your child should choose the style that is most appealing:

  • Descriptive – this is the type of project that describes the situation of a certain type of thing. These projects are more popular from K-8 rather than for high school students.
  • Collection – these projects require collecting certain items, thinking of something to study about the collection, and working on it. As with Descriptive projects, these aren’t too popular among the high school crowd.
  • Engineering – these projects require designing, building, and manipulating a three-dimensional project. Students build a scaled-down version of the building/structure they’re studying and record any changes and behaviors they observe under specific conditions.
  • Demonstration – this involves demonstrating a known scientific theory. For instance, to demonstrate one of Newton’s laws, your student might design a structure that follows the specific law they’re studying.
  • Experimentation – the most in-depth of science project types, these projects involve the application of prior science knowledge gained. As such, they’re more popular amongst high school students over elementary or middle school students.

Regardless of the type of project you do, you’ll want to have your student follow the steps of the scientific method. This is especially true if the science fair is competitive. The steps are as follows:

  • Ask a question,
  • Do background research,
  • Formulate a hypothesis,
  • Perform your experiment,
  • Analyze your data, and
  • Share your results.  

Conducting Research

For some students, the research involved is one of the most intimidating aspects of the whole science fair project. To tackle this portion, allow your student to develop a question and begin preliminary research. This may involve trips to the library and access to the internet. Upon completion, your student will have a better grasp of what it is he or she wants to know. It is at this point you’ll want to see your student move on to develop a hypothesis and proceed with the experiment.

5 Fun Science Project Ideas

If you’ve decided you’re ready for your student to participate in the local science fair but can’t think of anything imaginative to do, look no further! Here, we’ve put together several ideas for science projects and wanted to share our favorites with you.

  1. Batteries are made of copper and zinc soaked in an acidic solution. Each battery contains one positive charge (from copper) and one negative charge (from zinc). In this experiment, students will replace the acidic solution with four lemons. Cut a slit into the end of one lemon, making sure it’s super juicy on the inside, and insert an old coin into the slit. At the other end, cut another slit and insert an aluminum nail. You’ve now created a circuit of electricity with lemon!
  2. Help your students observe the effects of evaporation on water in this science fair idea. They’ll learn that water doesn’t just disappear – it evaporates. The real question is, does it evaporate faster in the sun or in the shade?
  3. Invite your students to explore the processes of weathering and erosion! Your student may usually think of water as “less abrasive” than most other materials. In this easy science fair project, students will see exactly how moving water combines with rock to result in weathering.
  4. Do your students ever wonder why you insist on having them drink water over soda? Maybe they know there’s sugar in soda but just don’t know how much or what that amount looks like. If so, doing an experiment where they extract the sugar from a can of soda can answer that question for you.
  5. Many students have seen commercials for making slime but when asked which ingredients make the best slime, they might reply, “I don’t know.” Those are clue words for. “This would make a great science fair project!” With your child, collect assorted materials from a few different slime recipes and try keeping some constant variables so the recipes only differ slightly. Then, your child can be the judge as to which turned out better and why.  

Participating in a science fair can be a rewarding experience for a child of any age. Depending on the science fair you enter, some even offer cash rewards for winners while others offer scholarships to college. Whichever science fair you decide to have your student participate in, consider choosing one he or she can participate in for years to come.

Tasha Swearingen

Tasha is a homeschooling mom to 5 and has been homeschooling for 14 years. Currently, her children's ages span from toddler to young adult. Tasha has a Bachelor's of Science degree in Social Sciences from Florida State University and is working on her MBA through SNHU/Berklee School of Music.