Perhaps you don't have enough class periods to do every science experiment you wish you could, or maybe your budget for beakers and baking soda is all tapped out. Maybe you just want to watch and see how it's done before you try to build a volcano with 24 fourth-graders. Whatever the reason, having students watch a science demonstration close up on the Web is the next best thing! Read on to discover 40 favorites for K-8 students chosen by the great people at the X-Ray Vision-aries blog. They may even inspire your students' next science fair projects!
1. Dry Ice Bubble
This fun, simple demonstration of how to create a giant soap bubble with dry ice will have your students' eyes popping.
2. Glow Sticks-Liquid
Light Kids love glow sticks. Ask them how they work and the likely answer will be "batteries." The answer is simple science. This cool experiment on the luminescent science behind glow sticks is one of many fantastic and informative videos on YouTube hosted by Steve Spangler.
3. Inertia Experiment
This basic experiment using a pen cap, a bottle, and a crochet hoop demonstrates one of Sir Isaac Newton's most fundamental principles — "an object at rest stays at rest."
4. How to Make a Rain Cloud in a Bottle
Teach kids the curious process of condensation with a bicycle pump, a soda bottle, and a few other simple items. This is a great way to teach the science behind everyday weather.
5. Afraid of Pop Rocks?
Discovery Channel's venerable Mythbusters team uses science to debunk the popular urban legend that the combination of Pop Rocks and soda could cause your stomach to explode. Use this video to talk with your class about how to pose scientific questions.
6. How Do You Keep an Egg From Breaking?
How Stuff Works creator Marshall Brain offers a kid-friendly look at the science behind a shattering egg. How can you drop an egg from a height of two feet and not have it break? Watch this video with your students and invite them to figure it out!
7. Surface Tension
Science Bob shows you how to make a paperclip (and a coin!) float on water with a little bit of dish soap.
8. CO2 is Heavier Than Air
Using household ingredients, this experiment illustrates the weight of carbon dioxide when compared with other gases in the atmosphere. This is an ideal experiment for introducing your students to the concept of greenhouse gases and global warming.
9. Where Do Ocean Currents Come From?
Without motion in the ocean, there wouldn't be nearly as many different things living in the sea. Teach your students how the ocean ebbs and flows and the behavior of different types of currents with Bill Nye's informative, detailed demonstration.
10. How Much Sugar Is in a Can of Soda?
This great kitchen science experiment dealing with nutritional values and evaporation will have your students thinking twice before the next time they ask for a glass of their favorite drink. The shocking answer? In every 12-ounce can of soda, there is about seven and 1/2 teaspoons of sugar.
11. The Science Behind the Olympics
Steven Spangler demonstrates how air flow and resistance affect the speed and performance of a ball in the air or a relay runner on the track. Students who love sports will find themselves fascinated by the forces at work in their favorite games.
12. Why Won't This Balloon Pop?
This video will appeal to kids and adults alike, showcasing an enjoyable experiment involving a seemingly invincible balloon.
13. Harry Potter: Three Magical Experiments
Sometimes science can look a lot like magic. In this video, scientist Dan Jambuck shows kids step by step how to make a fizzy potion and invisible ink with kitchen ingredients. Do these with your students and have them record their scientific observations in invisible ink!
14. How to Build a Water Rocket
One of the many delightful videos hosted by eHow's Expert Village involves instructions on building a water rocket out of a plastic bottle, demonstrating how air pressure works. The step-by-step instructions are easy to follow or to duplicate in your own classroom.
15. The Tea Bag Rocket
Simple, fun, quirky, and entirely feasible for the classroom, the tea bag rocket looks at science from an unexpected angle. Use this quick video lesson to teach your students about the density of air and how it is affected by changes in temperature.
16. How to Make a Miniature Volcano
Some teachers see the vinegar and baking soda volcano as something of a science fair clichÃ©. It may be an oldie, but it's a still a goodie. Watch this with your students before creating your own mini Krakatoas.
17. Exploding Piñatas
Watch seventh- and eighth-graders design a piñata that explodes on its own and sprays the room with candy. A good model of the scientific process-students come up with the goals of their experiments and test several models to determine success.
18. The Science of Solids, Liquids, and Gases
Using ingredients readily available at grocery, drug, and hardware stores, children can learn about the properties of matter.
19. How to Make a CO2 Sandwich
Here's a fun activity that uses some common items that you'll find around the house and a little creativity to explore the "pop" factor of vinegar and baking soda. Steve Spangler and his second-grade assistants create "sandwich bombs" out of plastic bags and simple chemistry.
20. How Does Your Body Digest Food?
In this video, Marshall Brain dives into the digestive process and presents an experiment that replicates how the stomach and large and small intestines break down food.
21. Exploding Bubbles
What happens when heat is applied to bubbles created using hydrogen gas? The video experiment starts slow but ends with a bang.
22. Hair-Raising Science
Get students charged up for a lesson on static electricity. Bill Nye uses a van de Graaff generator to explain how electrical charges attract and repel.
23. How to Make a Glacier Out of GAK
Elmer's glue, Borax, and a few other ingredients are used to demonstrate the properties of an arctic glacier. Both GAK and glaciers are polymers that can stretch or break depending on the amount of pressure applied. If there is a lot of pressure on a glacier, ice will crack or break (causing crevasses in glaciers); when the pressure is lower or the strain rate is small and constant, ice can bend.
24. The Electric Pickle
Another super demonstration from Steve Spangler, this amusing and highly informative experiment uses a pickle in a simple electric circuit. Your students will light up when the pickle turns red and glows! A great introduction to the science of electricity.
25. How to Make a Tornado in a Bottle
With simple ingredients, students can create a miniature whirlpool that illustrates the movement and behavior of water with artistic flair.
26. Acid Base Indicator
How can a cabbage help determine whether a solution is acidic or basic? BeardedScienceGuy demonstrates how to create a simple, colorful indicator that students can use to design their own acid base chemistry experiments.
27. Why Does Ivory Soap Float?
This simple experiment shows students the secrets behind Ivory Soap's unique physical structure that allows it to float.
28. How to Make Flubber
Slime and other gooey substances are an undeniable favorite when it comes to kid-friendly science experiments. Follow the step-by-step instructions to make it in your own classroom.
29. The Sticky Note Experiments
This smart, funny video will teach you and your students how to make a "waterfall" out of sticky notes. The video is entirely without words and only about a minute long, but it will inspire your students to want to make their own experiment videos. (Tip: Share the videos at your next science fair.)
30. Walking Water Rainbow
Students will love this science experiment done by kids, for kids. 11-year-old Aiden demonstrates color-mixing and absorption as he creates a rainbow using easy-to-find materials from around the house.
31. How to Build a Catapult
One of the most basic physics projects around is also one of the most enjoyable. Colin Kilbane teaches viewers how to make a tiny, very simple machine. Building a catapult is simple: Use a block of wood as a base, a plastic spoon as the arm, and two push pins and a rubber band as the torsion energy. What's your ammunition? Mini marshmallows, of course.
32. Light Bends and Bounces
The science videos of Bill Nye the Science Guy are produced by Disney and couldn't be clearer or more appealing to students. Do your students know why light bends through a lens? Bill shows us why. Notice that the light changes direction every time it goes from air to plastic, and then again when it goes from plastic to air. It slows down and speeds up. When that happens, it just can't help but bend.
33. What Happens When You Mix Diet Coke and Mentos?
The scientists test their theories on why soda turns into a fountain if you drop in a Mento. Show this to students after trying the experiment and challenge them to propose their own theories.
34. How to Walk on Water
This extremely messy experiment is an argument in itself for using video in your classroom. A mixture of cornstarch and water teaches kids about non-Newtonian fluids while at the same time shows them how to walk on it without sinking.
35. What is Energy?
Bill Nye introduces the concept of energy with his kinetic style, a bowling ball, a piece of glass, and a barbecue. Energy can change from one form to another. Watch as it makes things go, run, and happen.
36. Are Elephants Afraid of Mice?
The Mythbusters investigate the truth behind the old tale of whether mighty pachyderms are afraid of tiny rodents. The results might surprise you!
37. How to Make Butter
Show your students this video hosted by the always pleasant Robert Krampf before having them make their own butter from soured cream.
38. Feel the Pressure
Pressure pushes in all directions at once. Bill Nye goes scuba diving and journeys to the Hoover Dam with a jackhammer to demonstrate the concept of underwater pressure.
39. The Egg and the Bottle
Steve Spangler offers up a new perspective on the tried-and-true classic experiments in which a hard-boiled egg pops into a bottle when the bottle is heated. Why does it work? When molecules of air heat up, they move far away from each other and take up more space.
40. Bowling and Momentum
To explain the concept of momentum, Bill Nye shows the universal forces at work in the difference between throwing a ping-pong ball and a bowling ball at the pins.
How to Choose a Science Fair Topic
Help your students choose topics that will bring out their best work. The hardest part about doing a science project is picking the right experiment. Sure, you can look at websites that list ideas that have already been done. But the best projects come from children's everyday questions and observations about the world around them.
An experiment can be as simple as "Why do I feel hotter when I wear the red side of my jersey instead of the white when I play soccer?" or "Do I really need to go to bed at 8:15 every night?" When kids look around and ask questions about their lives, they can make the most rewarding projects.
To start, ask them when was the last time they wondered why something happened or how something worked? Suggest they think about their favorite hobbies (skateboarding, cooking, video games) and ask "why does..." questions about the hobby.
Look at television commercials and question their claims.
Ask open-ended questions such as, "What is the effect of x on y?" "How does x move?" or "How does y react when you blow on it?"
- As you do your research, follow your background research plan and take notes from your sources of information. These notes will help you write a better summary.
- The purpose of your research paper is to give you the information to understand why your experiment turns out the way it does. The research paper should include:
- The history of similar experiments or inventions
- Definitions of all important words and concepts that describe your experiment
- Answers to all your background research plan questions
- Mathematical formulas, if any, that you will need to describe the results of your experiment
- For every fact or picture in your research paper you should follow it with a citation telling the reader where you found the information. A citation is just the name of the author and the date of the publication placed in parentheses like this: (Author, date). This is called a reference citation when using APA format and parenthetical reference when using the MLA format. Its purpose is to document a source briefly, clearly, and accurately.
- If you copy text from one of your sources, then place it in quotation marks in addition to following it with a citation. Be sure you understand and avoid plagiarism! Do not copy another person's work and call it your own. Always give credit where credit is due!
- Most teachers want a research paper to have these sections, in order:
- Title page (with the title of your project, your name, and the date)
- Your report
- Check with your teacher for additional requirements such as page numbers and a table of contents
Year after year, students find that the report called the research paper is the part of the science fair project where they learn the most. So, take it from those who preceded you, the research paper you are preparing to write is super valuable.
What Is a Research Paper?
The short answer is that the research paper is a report summarizing the answers to the research questions you generated in your background research plan. It's a review of the relevant publications (books, magazines, websites) discussing the topic you want to investigate.
The long answer is that the research paper summarizes the theory behind your experiment. Science fair judges like to see that you understand why your experiment turns out the way it does. You do library and Internet research so that you can make a prediction of what will occur in your experiment, and then whether that prediction is right or wrong, you will have the knowledge to understand what caused the behavior you observed.
From a practical perspective, the research paper also discusses the techniques and equipment that are appropriate for investigating your topic. Some methods and techniques are more reliable because they have been used many times. Can you use a procedure for your science fair project that is similar to an experiment that has been done before? If you can obtain this information, your project will be more successful. As they say, you don't want to reinvent the wheel!
If these reasons sound to you like the reasons we gave for doing background research, you're right! The research paper is simply the "write-up" of that research.
Special Information to Include in Your Research Paper
Many science experiments can be explained using mathematics. As you write your research paper, you'll want to make sure that you include as much relevant math as you understand. If a simple equation describes aspects of your science fair project, include it.
Writing the Research Paper
As you read the information in your bibliography, you'll want to take notes. Some teachers recommend taking notes on note cards. Each card contains the source at the top, with key points listed or quoted underneath. Others prefer typing notes directly into a word processor. No matter how you take notes, be sure to keep track of the sources for all your key facts.
How to Organize Your Research Paper
The best way to speed your writing is to do a little planning. Before starting to write, think about the best order to discuss the major sections of your report. Generally, you will want to begin with your science fair project question so that the reader will know the purpose of your paper. What should come next? Ask yourself what information the reader needs to learn first in order to understand the rest of the paper. A typical organization might look like this:
- Your science fair project question or topic
- Definitions of all important words, concepts, and equations that describe your experiment
- The history of similar experiments
- Answers to your background research questions
When and How to Footnote or Reference Sources
When you write your research paper you might want to copy words, pictures, diagrams, or ideas from one of your sources. It is OK to copy such information as long as you reference it with a citation. If the information is a phrase, sentence, or paragraph, then you should also put it in quotation marks. A citation and quotation marks tell the reader who actually wrote the information.
For a science fair project, a reference citation (also known as author-date citation) is an accepted way to reference information you copy. Citation referencing is easy. Simply put the author's last name, the year of publication, and page number (if needed) in parentheses after the information you copy. Place the reference citation at the end of the sentence but before the final period.
Make sure that the source for every citation item copied appears in your bibliography.
Reference Citation Format
|Type of Citation||Parenthetical Reference |
MLA Format (Author - page)
|Reference Citation |
APA Format (Author - date)*
|Work by a single author||(Bloggs 37)||(Bloggs, 2002)|
|Direct quote of work by single author||(Bloggs 37)||(Bloggs, 2002, p. 37)|
|Work by two authors||(Bloggs and Smith 37)||(Bloggs & Smith, 2002)|
|Work by three to five authors|
|(Kernis, Cornell, Sun, Berry, and Harlow 183-185)||(Kernis, Cornell, Sun, Berry, & Harlow, 1993)|
|Work by three to five authors|
|(Kernis et al., 1993)|
|Work by six or more author||(Harris et al. 99)||(Harris et al., 2001)|
|Two or more works by the same author in the same year (use lower-case letters to order the entries in bibliography)||(Berndt, 1981a)|
|Two or more works by the same author||(Berndt, Shortened First Book Title 221) then |
(Berndt, Shortened 2nd Book Title 68)
|Two or more works in the same parentheses||(Berndt 221; Harlow 99)||(Berndt, 2002; Harlow, 1983)|
|Authors with same last name||(E. Johnson 99)||(E. Johnson, 2001; L. Johnson, 1998)|
|Work does not have an author, cite the source by its title||(Book Title 44) or |
(Shortened Book Title 44)
|(Book Title, 2005) or|
("Article Title", 2004)
|Work has unknown author and date||("Article Title", n.d.)|
|* APA Note: If you are directly quoting from a work, you will need to include the author, year of publication, and the page number for the reference (preceded by "p.").|
Examples of Reference Citations using APA Format
Below are examples of how reference citations would look in your paper using the APA format.
"If you copy a sentence from a book or magazine article by a single author, the reference will look like this. A comma separates the page number (or numbers) from the year" (Bloggs, 2002, p. 37).
"If you copy a sentence from a book or magazine article by more than one author, the reference will look like this" (Bloggs & Smith, 2002, p. 37).
"Sometimes the author will have two publications in your bibliography for just one year. In that case, the first publication would have an 'a' after the publication year, the second a 'b', and so on. The reference will look like this" (Nguyen, 2000b).
"When the author is unknown, the text reference for such an entry may substitute the title, or a shortened version of the title for the author" (The Chicago Manual, 1993).
"For reference citations, only direct quotes need page numbers" (Han, 1995).
"Some sources will not have dates" (Blecker, n.d.).
Credit Where Credit Is Due!
When you work hard to write something, you don't want your friends to loaf and just copy it. Every author feels the same way.
Plagiarism is when someone copies the words, pictures, diagrams, or ideas of someone else and presents them as his or her own. When you find information in a book, on the Internet, or from some other source, you MUST give the author of that information credit in a citation. If you copy a sentence or paragraph exactly, you should also use quotation marks around the text.
The surprising thing to many students is how easy it is for parents, teachers, and science fair judges to detect and prove plagiarism. So, don't go there, and don't make us try to hunt you down!
Research Paper Checklist
|What Makes a Good Research Paper?||For a Good Research Paper, You Should Answer "Yes" to Every Question|
|Have you defined all important terms?||Yes / No|
|Have you clearly answered all your research questions?||Yes / No|
|Does your background research enable you to make a prediction of what will occur in your experiment? Will you have the knowledge to understand what causes the behavior you observe?||Yes / No|
|Have you included all the relevant math that you understand?||Yes / No|
|Have you referenced all information copied from another source and put any phrases, sentences, or paragraphs you copied in quotation marks?||Yes / No|
|If you are doing an engineering or programming project, have you defined your target user and answered questions about user needs, products that meet similar needs, design criteria, and important design tradeoffs?||Yes / No|