School science fairs often put students and parents on the hunt for project ideas. Of course, the point of these projects is for students, not parents, to learn how to plan and implement science! But, naturally, parents want to help their kids succeed. There are limitless resources available these days, especially with the help of the Internet.
One of the most beneficial things moms and dads can do is to help their children find resources that teach them how to conduct science. A great little book called "Plant Science Biology Projects" by David Hershey (Wiley Press) helps teach kids about the process of designing experiments. This includes how to pose questions (hypotheses) that are answerable, and what sorts of plant responses are measurable.
There also are many websites - so many as to boggle the mind! Here are a few that might warrant a closer look:
USDA-ARS Science for Kids
Click on the green "Science Projects" button. The site is filled with information to help kids understand the process of scientific experimentation and how to get started. It also contains project ideas from an array of disciplines, including botany, chemistry, environmental science, medicine and zoology. It's a great starting place for beginners as well as older students.
Internet Public Library for Kids: Science Fair Project Resource Guide
Internet Public Library2 has put together a useful resource for those who want to participate in or run a science fair. The site provides scientific methodology tips, project ideas, a section on writing and presenting results, and links to additional resources. A feature unique to this site allows students to ask the staff librarians questions.
Agriculture in the Classroom (sections for kids and teens)
This site has a lot of cool features you can search by grade level, content area and state, among others. There's a handy, interactive map of the U.S. where you can look up agricultural facts related to your state. Like the other sites, there are sections on how to choose topics and design experiments, but this one also has a nice section on how to write a bibliography. The site is so robust it can take some patience to find the content you're hunting for. Here are a couple of shortcuts that might help: www.agclassroom.org/kids/science.htm and www.agclassroom.org/teen/
Discovery Channel Science Fair Central
This site has a lot of resources and hints for selecting and implementing your ideas, including a student handbook and additional factsheets on astronomy, biology, botany, chemistry, earth science and physical science projects. There's a virtual lab where kids can practice designing and conducting a project.
A special note to helpful parents: Science projects are a great opportunity for parents to coach and facilitate, but remember, this is your kid's project! Check out the Discovery Channel section specifically designed to help parents get involved: