Tuesday, January 29, 2008

It's Science Fair Time, 2008! More Books to Save Your Sanity

Schools have traditionally sought to beat the mid-winter blahs with school-wide science fairs, and the deadline for those outlines sets off the annual search for do-able projects that don't require a parental graduate degree.

Janice VanCleave's Great Science Project Ideas from Real Kids (Janice VanCleave Presents) (Wiley and Son, 2007) is an example of a book which meets the criteria for a good science project guide. VanCleave first defines the "science project."

"A science project is an investigation designed to find the answer to one specific question or proposal called a project problem."

VanCleave follows with an easy-to-read section titled "How to Use This Book" in which she advises students on how to set up and keep a project log as they research a category, topic, and specific project problem, and determine their hypothesis, methodology, design, presentation, and evaluation to execute the project. In this section VanCleave also offers a good description of the useful terms independent variable, dependent variable, controlled variable, and controls.

Each of the forty projects is based upon real student exhibits and provides lists of materials, sources and supplies, clear directions, illustrations and diagrams, and suggested methods of analysis, evaluation of the data, and presentation. Project problems include examples such as "What type of container increases the shelf life of bread?" and "How does density affect the buoyancy of an object?" These projects are just right for students in the middle grades and are grounded in scientific principles which reinforce curriculum objectives in Grades 4-7.

VanCleave's book also includes excellent appendices, including Appendix A with 100 project problems and Appendix B which provides an extensive bibliography titled Science Project and Reference Books, broken down into categories such as astronomy, biology, chemistry, etc., as well as a seven-page Glossary and four-page Index.

Other very useful guides by Janice VanCleave are Janice VanCleave's Guide to the Best Science Fair Projects (Janice VanCleave's Guide to the Best Science Fair Projects), Janice VanCleave's Guide to More of the Best Science Fair Projects, and Janice VanCleave's A+ Science Fair Projects.

For those students with specific subject area interests or requirements VanCleave has added Janice VanCleave's A+ Projects in Biology: Winning Experiments for Science Fairs and Extra Credit (VanCleave A+ Science Projects Series), Janice VanCleave's A+ Projects in Earth Science: Winning Experiments for Science Fairs and Extra Credit, Janice VanCleave's A+ Projects in Physics: Winning Experiments for Science Fairs and Extra Credit (VanCleave A+ Science Projects Series), and Janice VanCleave's A+ Projects in Chemistry: Winning Experiments for Science Fairs and Extra Credit (VanCleave A+ Science Projects Series)

For a more exhibit-oriented approach, students looking for experiments which involve showpiece constructions can't go wrong with Neil Ardley's 101 Great Science Experiments. Using DK Publishing's trademark color-popping spot art to good advantage, veteran science writer Ardley provides everything needed to create working models exhibiting project outcomes, with titles such as "Build a Turbine," "Build a Water Wheel," or "Lift a Load with Water."

For a discussion of what to look for in a science project guide and additional book recommendations from my post of January 27, 2007, here is the link.

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  • If you're shopping for a science fair project, then you want the 'Amateur Scientist' CD from Scientific American.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:24 PM  

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