A science fair is generally a competition where contestants present their science project results in the form of a report, display board, and models that they have created. Science fairs allow students in grade schools and high schools to compete in science and/or technology activities.
Although writing assignments that take a long time to complete and require multiple drafts are fairly common in US schools, large projects in the sciences (other than science fairs) are rare. Science fairs also provide a mechanism for students with intense interest in the sciences to be paired with mentors from nearby colleges and universities, so that they can get access to instruction and equipment that the local schools could not provide.

In the United States, science fairs first became popular in the early 1950s, with the ISEF, then known as the National Science Fair. As the decade progressed, science stories in the news, such as Jonas Salk’s vaccine for polio and the launch of Sputnik, brought science fiction to reality and attracted increasing numbers of students to fairs.

The origins of the science fairs in the United States began almost thirty years before the first National Science Fair in Philadelphia in 1950. Its beginnings can be traced back to newspaper mogul E.W. Scripps in 1921. He fathered the Science Service, now known as Society for Science & the Public, in collaboration with The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Research Council. Scripps created the Science Service as a nonprofit organization to popularize science by explaining technical scientific findings in a jargon-free manner to the American public. Under the watchful editorial eyes of Edwin Slosson and Watson Davis, the original weekly mimeographed Science News Bulletin evolved by the end of 1920s into the Scientific News Letter, a weekly magazine.
Davis used his influence at the Science Service to forward science education for all American children. With sponsorship from the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company in 1941, Watson expanded the science club movement begun 14 years earlier by the American Institute of the City of New York into a national movement –Science Clubs of America. As a result of the Science Service’s efforts, some 600,000 young scientists were organized into 25,000 science clubs. The early efforts of the science clubs were reported in dispatches appearing weekly in the science newsletter. The clubs were inclusive and very much based on the wonder of science and discovery.
The work of science clubs began to culminate in science fairs held locally as part of the science movement. A science fair was originally defined as the followings at the first national science fairs in Philadelphia in 1950.
During the first fifteen years, projects were marked by individual creativity, ingenuity and resourcefulness. Science News Letter contributor, Allen Long argued: “…getting into the competition is not hard. A student decides upon some project and builds an exhibit around it. Frequently, however, the projects are the outgrowth of scientific hobbies the students have been pursuing in their spare time.” Several times during the period, the SNL printed advice on how to complete a project. The advice was void of the scientific method.

Some people point to the process of elimination as a factor which may discourage students from taking further interest in the sciences. A related source of criticism is the tendency for an inordinate amount of parental contribution to the projects, especially of winning projects. In the desire to see their children win the competition, many parents direct the children to choose projects far above a secondary student's capacity for understanding. Therefore, the parent or a connection of the parent with scientific or technical expertise will direct the development and execution of the project. Not only does this minimize the educational value of the project for the student, but also provides an unfair advantage to students whose parents have the technical connections and financial resources to invest in these projects.
Often, prizes in science fairs do not go to the best science, but to technology that is currently fashionable (green technology or health-related projects, for example).

Easy Elementary Science Projects

How can a rose turn blue? Just experiment! Take a white colored rose and cut the end of its stem at an angle of 45 degrees. Take a vase and fill it with lukewarm water. Add blue color to the water and place your rose in the vase. Keep the arrangement undisturbed overnight and you will see a beautiful blue rose in the flowerpot. The white flower has turned blue. This is because the vascular stem of the rose draws in water and nutrients from the water below. The water reaches its petals giving the petals the coloration!

Wondering how to distinguish between a raw egg and a hard-boiled one? It’s easy with an experiment. Try spinning both the eggs. Lo! The one, which spins faster, is the boiled egg!

We know of the litmus test that serves as an indicator of acids and bases. But an anthocyanin called flavin that is present in red cabbage can act as litmus! The flavin pigment in red cabbage is water-soluble. So take two cups of chopped cabbage in a container and add boiling water to it. Wait till the water becomes reddish purple in color. On adding an acidic substance to the solution, the solution will turn purple while bases will turn it to a yellowish green color.

You can build an ‘Invisible Written Communication System’. Sounds interesting? Help yourself for a plain paper, a paintbrush and lemon juice. Dip the paintbrush into the lemon juice and write a message on the paper with the brush. Allow the paper to dry. Now ask your friends to read that message. If your friends complain of not seeing anything on the paper, quickly bake or heat the paper. The heat will make the dried lemon juice reappear on the paper making your message visible.

Making a robot hand can be your elementary science project. All you need is cardboard, paper, straws, strings, caulk, scissors and glue. First cut out a hand pattern from the paper. Squeeze the caulk of about the diameter of a pencil from the tip of each of your fingers and the thumb to the base of the palm. Next, lay the string on the finger portion of the caulk beads. Take a cardboard and squeeze the caulk in between the cardboard and the hand pattern cut out from paper. Now glue straws onto the pattern. Run caulk along the straws and cover them with caulk. Cut the parts of straws that jut out without cutting the string and cut out the cardboard in the shape of your palm. Cut notches for bending of fingers and thumb. Run strings through the straws. Pulling these strings will control finger and thumb movements.

Making a ball is a really easy elementary science project. Get aluminum foil and roll it into a ball. Take elastic rubber bands and stretch them around the ball. Take as many elastic bands as you can and the ball gets bigger. Take a fairly thick and long straw. Fetch two circular magnets each with a hole in the center. Place a straw through the holes in the magnets such that the two magnets slide along the straw. Cut out any animal from a piece of paper. Glue it on one of the magnets without obstructing the hole in the magnets.

Medicine bottles sometime have a note saying that it is made out of UV Blocking plastic. Place UV Energy Beads in the bottle to test if its plastic really blocks ultra violet rays. If they do not change color, it confirms that the bottle has blocked UV rays.

Another easy demonstration of static electricity developed by Bruce Jenny, can seem magical. Get PVC pipe and a Styrofoam sheet. Cut out a band from the sheet. Rub fur along the band to build static charge. Similarly build a charge onto the pipe. Toss up the band with the help of a pencil and place the pipe underneath. Due to the charges produced on both the objects, the band will whirl above the pipe.

Elementary science projects can be as interesting as the ones mentioned above. Science projects can be fulfilled and innovative. They illustrate fundamental as well as complex scientific facts creatively. Easy elementary science projects have always fascinated me.


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