Several students scramble to decide on a science fair project. Like many young learners, I was also someone who struggled to find a good idea. You might be in a similar reality and can remember a time that a science fair caused you to stress. A lot of people don’t consider that Earth science fair projects are a great way to stand out among the crowd. If you want to wow an audience at an academic fair, then consider taking on an Earth science project.
Earth science fair projects are applications of earth science research or findings in a visible, observable setting. Apart from the typical baking soda volcano, earth science fair projects can be easy to create and make a good impression. Many students utilize projects within the earth sciences to help demonstrate what they learn in class. These events are great ways to help display year-long learning in a fun and casual setting.
When you think about science fairs, you may have seen, what usually comes to mind? Experiments using chemistry, or maybe even a physics project involving a bridge and various loads? In short, there are several ways to play it safe at the science fair, but earth science projects are a fun challenge.
What Are Science Fairs?
Science Fairs are events hosted by schools and organizations to give kids a place to show off their scientific projects. Earth Science Fair Projects are not usually that common (excluding the classic baking soda volcano), but they might be gaining in popularity. Science as a whole is undoubtedly becoming more popular, with everything from local school fairs to national competitions popping up every year.
The real meat of the fair starts weeks or months in advance when kids start their science projects. They pick a topic and method to explore their ideas, rather than just reading from science textbooks. The fair itself is at the end, providing a space for all the students to present their findings. Each student has a small space to set up a poster that describes their project. Based on the presentation, judges will often select projects with the best methods or most exciting results.
What is the Point of Science Fairs?
Science fairs not only get kids interested in science but also educate them about the scientific method. Science is not a body of knowledge, but rather the method we use to gain new understanding or even disprove what we thought we already knew. Recognizing this difference is vital for kids growing up in a society almost entirely based on scientific principles. Or at least, science is behind virtually every aspect of modern life; technology, food, governmental policies, and most careers depend on it to a significant degree.
Earth Science Fairs and Projects, in particular, can help raise awareness in kids of one of the most prolific modern problems: climate change. Earth Science is deeply related to this topic, and it is essential to get kids educated about it early. One day, they will be the primary people in charge of fixing the problem.
Apart from the pursuit of knowledge, students also have the opportunity to earn compensation for their hard work. Some science fairs offer prizes, scholarships, and entry into advanced competitions. Individual companies even scout science fairs or host their own to recruit future talent.
Types of Science Fairs
Many science fairs include any topics, especially those run by local schools. However, some markets run through specific organizations that focus on particular areas.
Earth Science fairs are relatively rare, but some universities host them on occasion. The Center for Integrative Geosciences at the University of Connecticut hosts an Earth Science Fair with projects by faculty and students to help educate the community. Their projects and activities include hands-on demonstrations for kids and community members. Guests can identify minerals and fossils, smash geodes, try out drones, and play in virtual sandboxes.
One of the most popular area-specific types of science fairs centers around technology. Tech giants like Google and Intel run festivals full of projects testing out new technological advances in electronics and engineering. They often use these fairs to find rising talent in the pool of young kids showing an early interest in such advanced topics.
If Earth Science Fairs or another particular topic interests you, check out universities or science organizations. There may be one near you or one that is worth making a trip.
What the Project Entails
There are five main types of approaches to these fairs: research, collection, experiment, model, and demonstration. Each of these has its structure and method, but the goal is to familiarize students with scientific principles. For some students, especially in elementary and junior high, a science fair project might be their first hands-on experience with science.
For this reason, it’s okay for the students to do things wrong during their projects. They might have small sample sizes or have weak experimental technique. But these weaknesses should be highlighted later to ensure that they understand the importance of meeting scientific standards.
The conclusions of the project should even discuss which aspects of the experiment could have or should have improved. Questions that explore the effects of small sample sizes, contamination factors, or missing information are vital to understanding that conclusions do not exist permanently.
The research consists of collecting information on a topic and presenting findings. Earth Science Fair Projects have great potential to fit in this category due to the timescale of events on Earth. Anything regarding geology or paleontology would require researching the known history of rocks and past life on Earth through other resources. The final project essentially sums up a large number of other scientists’ findings. From this information, the student might suggest new implications or conclusions. Then, someone looking at the project can easily understand the topic and any new ideas the student has about it.
The collection is the gathering of items that demonstrate an understanding of a concept. For an Earth Science fair project, a group might consist of a range of soil samples. The student can use the examples to evaluate pesticide usage in the area of collection. Or, it might be a collection of rocks demonstrating the relationship between location and characteristics such as texture, source, organic content, or method of formation.
Experiments and investigations are the most common type of projects and the most useful for learning about the scientific method. In these projects, the student creates an original hypothesis and concludes observations made while testing it. To test a scientific theory, a simplified version of the scientific method may help. This version allows the student greater focus on one aspect while avoiding bogging them down in an overwhelming amount of details.
The student might take surveys or samples to collect data, or maybe set up an experiment from which they periodically retrieve data. An Earth Science project example could be setting up one or more plant habitats from which measurements take to test soil and air quality over time when specific changes made to the system.
Model projects involve building replicas or representations to illustrate concepts or principles. The notorious vinegar and baking soda volcano are an Earth Science Project that fits in this category. More useful and not over-done examples could be simplified models of new technology or even prototypes of the student’s invention ideas. For example, maybe the student has an idea for a device that can clean the oceans or filter pollution from the air. Students can implement a small-scale scoop or fan filter to model the concept.
A demonstration is generally re-testing an experiment. Although it might sound redundant, this is an essential part of science in general. Re-performing tests allow the verification of other scientists’ results, acting as a form of peer review. In the Science Fair context, it will enable students to understand where a particular piece of knowledge came from, and why what they teach in school is indeed true.
Earth Science Fair Project Ideas
Because Earth Science Fair Projects are not very common, doing one allows you or your kids to do something unique! Here are some ideas for projects of various levels.
Elementary students are just starting to learn about what science is. Projects should focus on helping them understand the process and its importance, as well as holding their interest. Make the projects simple, fun, colorful, and maybe even a bit messy.
Collections, models, research, and demonstrations are probably the ideal project types for these younger kiddos. The analysis allows the students to learn about a topic that is already well-explored by others. But this option isn’t very hands-on like the others. For collections, they can pick something that requires scavenging in the year or at nearby parks. Rocks, insects, plants, soil, or even litter might make impressive collections that make a statement about the local environment.
Models let them mix their creative side into the science, creating replicas of anything from atoms to galaxies. They can also be interactive, showing something like how a landslide of pebbles affects a small paper town. Or maybe how an “earthquake” from shaking a table affects different materials like sand, rocks, clay, or even artificial materials of varying rigidity like Legos or paper.
Demonstrations might be a little more advanced, consisting of repeating an actual experiment. But many operations are straightforward, and having step-by-step instructions helps walk the student through the process. Try looking into some famous simple tests about simulating parts of the water cycle like acid rain or salt formation from evaporation. Or discover how different rocks form, or how to make your own sedimentary “rocks.”
High school students are capable of more advanced projects, usually focusing on experiments. The other project types can still make for great plans at a higher level, but the student needs to be more creative and think outside of the box. The main goal for high school students is to follow the scientific method carefully, learning how they can improve the experiment to ensure results are reliable.
Some Earth Science Fair Projects might look at the effect of soil management on soil quality of a garden, or evaluate factors of erosion. Even the classic volcano experiment can look at more advanced factors like temperature or viscosity of the “lava.” Students can also look at whether using relatively simple measurements like temperature or measuring precipitation in cups.
Modeling can also be done in an advanced fashion to encourage engineering capabilities. Students might try to make various building designs for withstanding earthquakes, or test pipe designs to see which distribute water most efficiently. Whatever the method, try to focus on current topics and problems to make the science fair a valuable part of education.
If you have a science fair in your future, then consider taking on an Earth science project. There are several routes to ponder and take, and all are great ways to engage with this vital field of study. If you have a few inklings in mind, then consider how Earth science applications can help. To stand out among the crowd, don’t be afraid to read up more about Earth science and see what you can discover.
What can Earth science fair projects incorporate other elements of the natural sciences?
Could a traditional, well-known science fair project be adapted to involve Earth science?
What do you believe could make for a great science fair project as a judge?