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Pros: An impressive help guide that gives meaningful help for great science and engineering projects, as well as support for successful fairs.
Cons: “Beginner” material marked for K-3 students may require too much adult involvement to be practical.
Bottom Line: Take the jitters out of science or engineering projects and fairs; this remarkable site coaches and supports students, parents, and teachers.
Anyone involved in the planning or execution of a successful science fair -- or in helping students create projects -- should probably check out the Science Buddies site. Start with the “Teacher’s Guide to Science Projects,” honing in on the 1-page “Teacher Timeline” with its week-by-week outline and goals.
Have students use the wizard tool, effectively squashing any “what project should I do?” quandaries. The site does a great job helping students with inquiry concepts, like identifying variables and drawing conclusions. Teachers who want students to work independently might feel that the site provides too much support. If that's the case, ask students to choose only from the abbreviated project ideas -- those marked with asterisks -- which give just an outline of the project.
Science Buddies is the go-to site for anyone heading into a science or engineering project. Teachers will find checklists, handouts, and grading rubrics. Fair coordinators can utilize the planning guides and judges' information.
Looking for a project idea? Search using specific keywords (think: "mold") or with broad topics (anything from "human behavior" to "oceanography"). Results are easily filtered by level of difficulty or time involved. Students can also employ the ingenious “Topic Selection Wizard.” Simply respond to prompts about your interests, and the site will provide an individualized list of project ideas.
Need help with implementation? In the “Project Guide” section, students and teachers are lead through each facet of a project – from forming questions to communicating results. Guidance is fairly concise and illustrations give concrete examples. “Ask an Expert” advice is also available.
If you've got the jitters about an upcoming science fair, the Science Buddies site can provide calm and likely some inspiration as well. There's quality instruction that helps participants build confidence when writing hypotheses and testing designs. Teachers will love the site’s tone, which situates projects within the realm of everyday observations or musings -- kids get the opportunity to think like scientists! Topics are even linked to related careers in science and engineering.
Most project suggestions are both sophisticated and contextual -- there's no rueful "build a volcano" here. Nearly all provide background information, well-crafted procedures (with pictures and sample data charts), and tips on customization. That said, more opportunities for kids to upload their data and compare results with others would be a nice touch. Also, audio options and video clips of activities could help expand the user base. A few flawed links and the occasional pop-up ad could be a minor annoyance.