Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Need Help with the Science Fair?

WHAT: My story at Quartz about Science Fairs and extras at Toys Are Tools (here)

Read my story at Quartz and then come back here if you are looking for Science Fair project ideas and resources.  

Are you back from reading the Quartz article? If you haven't, please do so, you'll feel better.  I promise.

Okay, first question: 

Is your project idea one that will use the scientific method or the engineering design process? The latter approach is about stating a problem and figuring out a way to solve it. Both are methodical and both should be eligible for acceptance at the science fair. But if you have a builder kid who dreams about saving the world then they might be more motivated to do the engineering design approach. Before doing this story, I had no clue that this was an acceptable method.

from ScienceBuddies.org      You need to visit this site if you are doing a science fair project.

If your school says it isn't, they may not be familiar with it but it's a real thing.  Check out this page from ScienceBuddies.org.  This is my new fave website for science fair and home based science activities (for fun).

That said, let's look at some products!!!

Thames and Kosmos:

Anyone of their products can be used as a science project. Really... anyone of them. It all depends on the kind of question you come up with or if you will use their product to solve a problem (and you most definitely can). You are not cheating by the way just because you are using a science kit! It's not like you must use only products from the kitchen to be a legitimate fair project. You can use stuff from your toybox too. Let's all save some money shall we? If your kids have any science toys then why not use them?

Kids First Physics Lab will be out this May 2015. If you were looking for a good starter physics lab, this looks great.   One possible Science Fair scientific method that a student can try to answer is “How does the weight of an object affect how far a trebuchet can throw it?"

If you need to buy something right now from T and K then go for

Your scientific task: Come up with a hypothesis about the type of water and the size of crystals you can grow.
Tip: Make sure all variables are the same except the water.
Tip #2: Record your observations and draw a conclusion about the type of water and the size of the crystals. Do some research why this might be.  

Thames and Kosmos reported that they will be launching a new website that will include a section regarding science fair but if you have a question now which one of their products, you can contact them.  THEY HAVE AMAZING customer service.  Tester #1 can attest to this. Oh yeah, I make my kid call. Believe me, they are very nice to kids.

Do you have a Sphero and want to use it for the Science Fair?   Say no more.... 

What a cool teacher and this is a science fair project idea too! photo: Orbotix

You can find more lessons like this in www.gosphero/education   Students can use the "student guide" to guide themselves independently for a possible fair project but elementary school students will likely need help using this guide.

Want to learn with a little video? 

This is a rather new product line called Sick Science! and if you like Steve Spangler, chances are you are going to love this product. As soon as I finish this post, I am calling them to send me some review units! The difference with these kits is that there are two videos. One is instructional... how to do the project. The other is for students to learn about what just happened. This is critical. When you are given time to learn what you did then you can use that knowledge to tweak things and even talk about it in a clear manner. They are not going to give you question-research-hypothesis-data- etc but I think going that way will be a lot less stressful with Steve Spangler.  I'll let you know.

Oh hello there!  What kind of groovy science project can you be? Can you improve processing speed? Can you improve social and language skills? How can I measure this?  Code Master, I must have you ASAP.  photo:ThinkFun


A lot of the folks here have children or students or customers with disabilities and extra-abilities (a.k.a. gifted). We need to encourage them to use science to explore that further. For example, what kind of experiments can your child investigate using his/her:

Time Timer -test impact on executive functioning skills
Whisperphone - test impact on reading fluency and comprehension
MotivAider - test impact on executive functioning skills
Voice Dream Reader (and now Writer too) - test impact on reading fluency and comprehension and written expression
On Task On Time Timer - test impact on executive functioning skills
Makey Makey- save the world, invent something
OSMO  - test hand-eye coordination
ThinkFun games (Distraction, Word A Round, etc)  Check out their Special Needs section, you can use it to tease out skills to test in anyone.
littleBits- use sensors to help self-monitor voice volume? personal space intrusion? and save the world....

When pursuing science projects regarding the brain- one must interact with other family members or fellow students, take their perspective, and think about solving problems that help EVERYONE. And your kids are guaranteed an audience AT SCHOOL to make a great case for bringing great toys and tools to school!!!!!


Science Fairs Can Be Your Stealth PR into Schools!

To all the toy companies I have spoken to, if you have read the Quartz article, you know that your customers could use all the help they can get.  Please give the kids some ideas (AND PUT THEM ON YOUR WEBSITE and say the words "Science Fair Project Idea" to help with searching). Now that we have the engineering design method being highlighted by the Next Gen Science Standards, you have more choices for ideas!

Yes, there will be cheaters, last-minute doers, etc but your products do not come pre-built- the kids (and hopefully not the parents) will always have to do the work. Please remember that elementary school kids who can use your toys may not always know how to talk about the science or collect data properly so please throw them a bone. Clearly, they aren't always getting that in school.  Your good efforts will not be ignored as you'll be helping them show their parents, friend's parents, and their school community just how awesome your products are.

Can OSMO's new masterpiece be used to solve problems? How? How would you measure that? Oh yes, there are handwriting sheets and you can use your own too!

Number 2 is a packers fan and I love Hello Kitty and so he indulged me.

Disclosure:  Toys are Tools was not compensated by the manufacturers of anything mentioned here for the publication of this review.  The reviewed items were provided to Toys are Tools to facilitate a review.  Reviews are never promised

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