One can almost imagine parents across the country clutching their heads in despair at the mention of a science exhibition looming over the horizon. “Not again?” they seem to say; we just got over the disaster on that attempt at demonstrating the Archimedes Principle. Forget ‘eureka’ moments, all that water on the floor, the ship refusing to float…….” And what about homemade stuff looking so forlorn, next to dazzling displays of shiny models bristling with hi-tech components? No one seemed to be bothered that the proud child standing next to that rocket science stuff is often clueless about the how of its working or the why of those electronic gizmos!
It doesn’t have to be that way. The real purpose of a Science Exhibition is to give opportunities for children to engage with the natural world; and more important: to get acquainted with the scientific method. Science is a quest for appropriate answers about our world. It has all the fun and mystery of playing the role of a detective. If well planned, with sufficient time for iteration (improving your model), such activities promote curiosity, a desire to learn and much needed hands-on skills.
To make the exercise of participation in a science exhibition an enjoyable and fruitful experience, here are a few tips to help you along ( a small rider: he/she is interchangeable; no gender bias intended! It is tedious to keep writing he/she all the time, so please excuse!!):
- Start your preparations in advance. Last minute efforts result in frustration and drain out all the fun. Discuss with your child and provide him with a journal where he can record everything related to his project. Let him/her make a list of science topics of interest.
- Let the child research these topics on YouTube and select the one she is most interested in. This is the first step in the scientific method: Observation
- The next step – a very vital yet often overlooked one, is to find a mentor; someone savvy, who can guide the child through the project. It is really helpful to have someone to discuss ideas, brainstorm and work together. It could be a teacher, an older sibling, or your friendly neighborhood college student. Folk in the last category usually make excellent mentors, who can provide valuable tips and knowledge as to where to source materials etc. If they happen to be majoring in science/engineering/math/ medicine, that will be an added bonus as the project will be closer to their field.
- At this stage, for an experiment, it will be necessary to formulate a hypothesis (a proposed explanation for some phenomena as a starting point for the project). This is the second step in the scientific method. If the child chooses to build a working model, then the principle(s) on which the model works will also do.
- Now, guide the child to design an experiment and work out the step by step procedures to be followed.
- Create a list of materials which will be needed and let your child scour the home/neighborhood/shops for them. Let him try and find suitable substitutes or even fabricate some of the items. He’ll enjoy the independence, be stimulated to think creatively and experience the thrill of actually solving real world problems!
- Now is the crucial stage of experimentation – central to the scientific method.
- Teach your child to record all his observations and the data that is generated by his experiment.
- This is the stage for any iterations/improvements in the design and conclusions to be drawn.
- Assist your child in displaying his whole project in an attractive and colorful manner. His journal should hold the pride of place as proof of all his efforts!
- Let him rehearse his oral presentation. Thorough preparation will be complete with getting ready with explanations/justifications for varied questions that he is likely to face during his presentation.
Pride in the project and enthusiasm for the work done are the real rewards of taking part in a Science Exhibition. Everything else is fluff!!