Science fair season challenges children to pose questions:
“Will the sun change the color of construction paper?”; “Do a feather and a ball fall at the same rate?”; “What happens when you combine oil and water?”
But if your child is still stuck on “what should my project be,” know this before you break out the beakers and test tubes: It’s okay—and even beneficial—for your child to veer from the traditional project ideas and explore something that’s arts-related. “In order for children to learn from the assignment, they need to be engaged. It’s smart to use your child’s interest, whether it’s dance, visual arts, or music, as inspiration for their science fair project,” says Sandra Slutz, lead scientist at sciencebuddies.org
, an online science project resource for students, parents, and teachers.
Choosing an experiment that focuses on the arts equips your child with critical thinking skills while also broadening her artistic abilities and understanding. “You don’t even need to call it a ‘science project,’” adds Slutz, “but do make sure that the assignment focuses on the method of science and will provide measurable results.” Not sure where to start? Here are four projects that will merge your kid’s inner Einstein and artist for one A+ science fair exhibition.
1. If your child has a passion for music,
have her build a project that tests the effect of music on people’s moods. Will her friends feel differently when listening to upbeat songs compared to slower, more somber tunes? Help her create a playlist of different genres of music, from classical to heavy metal, to swing. Then, write up a list of different moods (relaxed, energized, sad, stressed, etc.). She can ask friends to mark which disposition they most closely relate to for each musical selection. Analyze the results together to see if listeners had similar reactions to songs. For more about the connection between our brain and music, check out Your Brain On Music
2. If your child is fascinated by visual arts,
he can hypothesize about whether humidity will slow down the drying time of paint. Have him create two pieces of art using water-based paints, and place one in a location with very little humidity, such as an air-conditioned bedroom, and the other in a location that has high humidity, such as a steamy bathroom after a shower. Set a timer, check on the paintings regularly, and record how long it takes them to dry. Discuss how a high-humidity atmosphere slows the evaporation rate of water. It really
can be fascinating to watch paint dry!
3. If your child can’t get enough of dancing,
have her examine the effect of the senses on balance. Does she think she’ll be able to perform as well when her eyes are blindfolded and her ears are plugged? Videotape her performing moves with and without a blindfold and ear plugs. When she reviews the videos, have her take note of how sight and hearing play a part in how balanced she is throughout the dance.
4. If your child loves to sing,
he can test the difference between the lung capacity of his singer pals and his friends who aren’t in the chorus. He should ask peers to take as big a breath as they can and then blow up a balloon with that one breath (plug noses so no one cheats!). Your child can measure the results with a ruler. Are the singers’ balloons larger? Tip: Because temperature can affect a balloon’s size, have your child conduct his test in one location.
Science fair projects should be an enjoyable and exploratory process. Once your child chooses what he wants to focus his science fair project around, gently guide him through the process, but resist the temptation to micro-manage. It’s normal for children to come across obstacles while working on their projects, and these hiccups will actually help sharpen their problem-solving skills. Remind your child that it’s okay to make mistakes. And then ask open-ended questions to get him back on track. If you keep the focus on the fun, you’ll be sure to have a proud, beaming child on science fair night!