BigSis's school had a Science Fair last week. Participation was optional and non-competitive.
The optional part makes a lot of kids wiggle out the fair though and there was only about 30% participation from 5th graders. Ours is a good enough school district but I see the emphasis in elementary classroom is more on Mathematics and Language Arts while Science is kind of a "also ran" subject. More hands-on student experiments in class could have triggered more student interest I feel, but then it is all very easy for me to say while the teachers have to struggle with the curriculum.
At first Big Sis too was not sure if she wanted to participate. Her last year experience was not exactly great where she did the project with another girl whose Mother took upon herself to do most of the work as she thought the project should look perfect. The kids were mostly in the periphery, doing little as the mother strived for perfection.
But I am a Mother who believes that more elementary school girls should be involved in Science even though at this point they might not find it terribly interesting. It is good to get feet wet even if the swimming comes much later. So I asked her if two of her friends in the neighborhood would like to participate too. Eventually all three girls were very enthusiastic about the science fair.
Some topics were discussed from the internet and then they narrowed it down to making a rudimentary solar oven. I think it appealed to them that they could make s'mores and that the project started off with ordering pizza as they needed a pizza box to make the oven was a good start. Honestly most of their idea for the oven came from this site. But then they extended it by trying to compare two solar ovens, one big and one small.
Their hypothesis was that the smaller oven would cook the s'mores faster. Eventually the comparison could not be done perfectly as there were only couple of sunny days in the week running up to the Science Fair but on the first warm, sunny day they were indeed successful in cooking s'mores in the larger oven.
I hope the experience was a good one for them as they followed the scientific process, collected data and learned to write up the experiment themselves and also make their poster board. They also learned that there will be failures in an experiment as none of the s'mores got cooked on a day that was sunny but also chilly.The school gave every participant a medal and a certificate and that boosted the morale of all participants. It was also fun to see all other cool projects on display that day.
If you are enjoying sunny, warm days, this is a nice project that young kids can do and cook their own snacks.