When you’re the teacher, planning for the elementary school science fair is a lot of work. You have to come up with a list of easy science fair project ideas to get your students headed in the right direction, map out the components of a good science fair project, and of course plan all the elements of the fair itself.
You are not alone!
The teachers on the Teach Starter team have been right where you are, Googling like mad for help to make the science fair a success for their students. Good news! We’ve put together science fair project ideas for 5th graders and 3rd graders (as well as a few other grades!), suggestions on how to throw a successful science fair in elementary school, and more tips to ignite purpose and possibility in your classroom!
Print a free copy of the steps of the scientific method for each student to refer back to, or post it on your classroom wall!
What Makes a Good Science Fair Project?
Before we dive into the best science fair project ideas to list out for students to choose from, it seems wise to take a look at exactly what sorts of science experiments your students should be working on. As you can imagine, the answer to “what’s a good science fair project idea” is going to vary pretty wildly, depending on the grade you teach. It stands to reason that a science fair project for 3rd graders won’t be as complex as a science fair project for sixth graders.
Then we add students (and let’s face it … parents) into the mix, and the definition of “good” can get very muddy very quickly. What makes a good science fair project for you and what makes a good one for students is, well … different! Students are likely to focus on the fun — and fun is a wonderful aspect of science! — but chances are pretty darn good that you want them to actually learn something through experimentation, right? Well-meaning parents can also end up over-complicating the experiments and hurting the learning process — even when they mean to help.
Creating your own list of guidelines and science fair ideas will help ensure the science project is appropriate for their grade and skill level to ensure students are activating their knowledge, rather than getting frustrated with a project that’s well beyond grade level. It’s also helpful to provide a list as it limits students to projects you know are largely safe — ahem, no mixing dangerous chemicals — and allows you to set up parameters that keep the playing field equal among students of different socioeconomic backgrounds.
Here are a few criteria our science teacher use for evaluating their students’ science experiments:
A good science fair project should:
- Follow the scientific method or use the engineering design process
- Be built from a scientific question or a problem that the student intends to solve
- Be focused on results or a specific expectation.
- Be an experiment, not a demonstration!
Components of your students’ science fair projects can include:
- A project title
- A question that the project answers
- A hypothesis
- A list of materials
- An explanation of the experiment — what procedures were done to test the hypothesis?
- A reporting of the results
- Data analysis such as charts or graphs
Help students design their own experiment with a sequencing activity!
Science Fair Project Ideas
This list of school science fair ideas compiled by our Teach Starter teacher team is designed for use in elementary school or the lower middle school grades. Some of the science projects challenge students to test their understanding of chemical reactions, others challenge students to use what they have learned about energy, while still more focus on working with water discovery. There’s a little something for everyone!
Feel free to pick and choose the science fair project ideas that are right for your classroom!
- Evaluate which type of sugar will turn into rock candy fastest — white granulated sugar, light brown sugar, or dark brown sugar.
- Test various substances to find out “what makes ice melt the fastest?”
- Evaluate “which gum flavor lasts the longest?”
- Build an egg drop container out of common household items.
- Dissolve marshmallows in different liquids to determine which will work best.
- Turn milk into plastic.
- Create a plastic bottle submarine that propels underwater.
- Test the effect of using different amounts of yeast in baking bread.
- Evaluate bacteria growth with a balloon and soda bottle test.
- Poke a stick into a balloon without popping it.
- Poke holes into a bottle of water without causing a leak.
- Discover which brand of popcorn pops best.
- Make a lemon battery.
- Power a clock with a potato.
- Explore capillary action by making water run uphill with an Archimedes screw.
- Bounce balls of different sizes and materials to determine which will bounce the highest.
- Use different solutions to determine what can make a gummy bear grow.
- Turn a hard-boiled egg into a cube.
- Measure the effects of various weights in a floating aluminum foil boat.
- Test the effectiveness of sunscreens with a variety of SPF ratings.
- Make a tornado in a jar.
- Make a snowstorm in a jar.
- Test ice cream under different conditions to find out which ice cream melts fastest.
- Test the endurance of nail polish against different variables.
Print a Science Safety Rules poster for your classroom!
More Science Projects for Students
Looking for science project ideas for students who need a bit of extra help? Students can build from any of the following experiments, making small changes to test a brand-new hypothesis. For example, if they love the naked egg science experiment, a student might replace the vinegar used in the popular science project with other household liquids!
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Don’t stop there. Explore more of our favorite science fair projects, experiment ideas, and more science resources created by teachers and ready for your classroom!
Banner image via Shutterstock/Mama belle and the kids