Friday, March 11, 2016

Spring is in the air, and we all know what that means. It's time for a science fair. Last year Smarty did not take long to decide on her science fair project. She wanted "to do something with bubbles". Sounds simple? Well...
Science Fair Project: Bubbles
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What Makes a Good Science Fair Project?

Enter any elementary school science fair, and you are likely to find all the usual suspects - colored flowers, baking soda and vinegar experiments, plants watered with various liquids, etc. Occasionally, there are surprises, especially since our school also allows to display "inventions" at a science fair. Here are three that stood out in my mind from the last science fair:
  • Is it dangerous to pee on live wire?
  • Do people memorize more words from a printed list or from computer list?
  • Do plants grow better if we pray over them?
We were happy to let Smarty explore her own idea, but stressed that it still has to comply to the rules of scientific method expected from good science fair projects.

Following Scientific Method in Science Fair Projects

There was a journey between I want to do something with bubbles to actually producing a project that would be acceptable for science fair. Here are questions that we asked our 8 year old to help her get started:
What are you trying to do?
It turned out that Smarty wanted to compare several types of bubble solutions to see what solution makes the best bubbles.
What is your hypothesis?
It took some work, but Smarty formulated the hypothesis that a store-bought bubble solution will make "better bubbles" than homemade solutions.
How are you going to test your hypothesis?
The whole project almost fell apart at this point, because Smarty needed to define what "better bubbles" really mean, since it's not that easy to measure bubbles. Eventually, she stated that the best solution will produce more bubbles with one blow.
How are you going to measure and record the results?
Again, Smarty had to realize that "better bubbles" is a very subjective statement, especially considering all the variable parameters affecting them - such as a size of a bubble wand, wind, the strength of "one blow". We helped her brainstorm and suggested to use a fan to produce consistent flow of air, so at least that variable was kept constant.

Be Prepared for Setbacks

I called this post Bubble Struggle, because the whole process was not smooth and there were some parts where either Smarty or one of us were extremely frustrated with the project. I kept reminding Smarty that her participation in science fair is voluntary, but that I expect her to do the project fully to be able to turn in her work, She had to repeat her bubble experiments several times because of the wind, and every time the results were somewhat different - just as they happen to be in real science experiments conducted by trained scientists. I was glad that our 8 year old did not give up, so she was able to move to the next part of the project - putting together a science fair board.

Science Fair Poster Board

I provided a bit of extra inspiration to Smarty by giving her bubble stickers and foam sticker letters to use on her board, but she put the board on her own. Frankly, looking through science fair presentations, it was quite obvious which ones were done by kids and which one were helped with done by parents ;) In her poster, Smarty described 3 solutions that she tested (two were bubble solution recipes from Apartment Therapy post and one a store bought solution. She had to acknowledge that her solution did not "beat" a store bought bubble solution. To be fair, her store bought solution was a fancy Fang Yang Gazillion Bubbles, and a dollar store comparison could be different. At least she had a lot of bubble solutions stored up for future use and, in fact, I thought they got better with time.

Your Turn

A Science Fair Project: Science of Bubbles

Did your kids participate in science fair projects? What did they choose to do and how much help did you have to give them?

Bubbles Unit Study

What else can you do with bubbles? Several kid bloggers joined forces to create a bubbles "unit" with activities from preschool to upper elementary school. Browse the links and find something that speaks to you!

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Ticia said...

We have not, I wonder how they would do with it.

shelah moss said...

This is really great information for kids and parents doing a science fair project. I love what Smarty did for her science fair!

maryanne @ mama smiles said...

I am impressed that Smarty did not give up! I went to college thinking I would be a scientist, but a year working in a genetics lab convinced me that I wasn't happy doing that, even if I was pretty good at doing the actual work.