Parents Play a Big Role in Kids’ Science Fair Success

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6 Ways Mom, Dad Can Coach, Cheerlead their Child to success with their science fair project.

According to a recent Canadian study by the Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair, children who are coached by their parents perform better at science fairs, receive higher marks for their projects, enjoy the judging and awards ceremony more, and go on to compete at subsequent science fairs.

“Science fairs do not have to be a dreaded, compulsory school activity but can actually be an enjoyable experience,” says educator and counselor Madeline Binder. “Also, it is in the practice of science that children learn to approach challenges in a systematic way. This is what the event is really all about.”

Here are some tips that she offers on the parent’s section of her web site to guide children through the process:

1. Begin with a supportive attitude—Love in your heart, a spirit of fun, a smile from within, belief in your child's greatness. There isn't another creature on the planet that is like your child. Tell your child... You are fun. I love you. I'm happy you're in my life!

2. Help them discover their own interests. Choosing a project can be a stumbling block. Ask questions, especially any question that starts with the word "what." That word triggers the brain to tap into its unconscious and come up with a great answer.

What subject interests you the most?

What do you enjoy learning about?

What thought first popped into your mind when I asked you that question?

3. Encourage them to focus. Children need to make an appointment to discuss projects with their new science teacher during the first few weeks of school. An excellent science fair project takes two to three months to complete. Guiding your children through the step-by-step process helps them stay on track and not get overwhelmed, especially middle grade students.

4. Be an enthusiastic, interested listener—even when your child practices his / her presentation for the 100th time! Judges are looking for the student to be familiar with the project and present the information in a conversational style, not to memorize a speech or read from note cards.

5. Remind your child that the human brain is like a computer and digital camera. Therefore, it is not necessary for them to memorize their presentation. They have lived it with every step that they took.

6. Provide logistical support—Transportation to and from the science fair is your job (sound familiar?). Help your child set up the display board and arrange other materials that will be on the table.

Binder asks parents to consider the words of Sergeant Shriver, father of NBC anchorwoman Maria Shriver. When asked what he believed was the most important attribute of being a parent, he responded, "To be my children's cheerleader. They will get beaten up by others, told that they are not good enough or cannot achieve their dreams. I'm here to tell them that all things are possible with focus, hard work and faith."

Binder says that whether or not children win recognition or go on to compete at a state or national levels is not the focus. “What’s important is that they believe in their greatness by experiencing small successes along their journey.”

Madeline Binder has master’s degrees in both Education and Human Service Counseling. Visit her web site .

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Madeline Binder
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