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Second-graders tend to be very curious. Applying that natural inquisitiveness to a science fair project can yield great results. Look for a natural phenomenon that interests the student and have him or her ask questions about it. Expect to help a second-grade student plan the project, and offer guidance with a report or poster. While it's always nice to apply the scientific method, it's usually OK for second-graders to make models or perform demonstrations that illustrate scientific concepts.
Here are some ideas appropriate for second-graders:
These are experiments with things we eat:
- What factors affect the rate at which foods spoil? You can test heat, light, and humidity.
- Identify the characteristics that distinguish a fruit from a vegetable. Next, use these characteristics to group different produce items.
- Test eggs for freshness using the float test. Does it always work?
- Do all types of bread grow the same types of mold?
- What is the best liquid for dissolving a gummy bear? Try water, vinegar, oil, and other common ingredients. Can you explain the results?
- Do raw eggs and hard-boiled eggs spin the same length of time and number of times?
- A mint makes your mouth feel cool. Use a thermometer to see if it actually changes the temperature.
These experiments focus on processes in the world around us:
- Put a pair of old socks over your shoes and go for a walk in a field or a park. Remove the seeds that attach to the socks and try to figure out how they attach to animals and what the plants they come from might have in common.
- Why doesn't the ocean freeze? Compare the effects of motion, temperature, and wind on freshwater compared with salt water.
- Collect insects. What types of insects live in your environment? Can you identify them?
- Do cut flowers last longer if you put them in warm water or cold water? You can test how effectively flowers are drinking water by adding food coloring to it and using white flowers, such as carnations. Do flowers drink warm water faster, slower, or at the same rate as cold water?
- Can you tell from today's clouds what tomorrow's weather will be?
- Collect a few ants. What foods most attract ants? Least attract them?
These experiments are about how things work around the house:
- Do clothes take the same length of time to dry if you add a dryer sheet or fabric softener to the load?
- Do frozen candles burn at the same rate as candles that were stored at room temperature?
- Are waterproof mascaras really waterproof? Put some mascara on a sheet of paper and rinse it with water. What happens? Do eight-hour lipsticks really keep their color that long?
- What type of liquid will rust a nail the quickest? You could try water, orange juice, milk, vinegar, peroxide, and other common household liquids.
Here are experiments in various categories:
- Do all students take the same size steps (have the same stride)? Measure feet and strides and see if there seems to be a connection.
- Do most students have the same favorite color?
- Take a group of objects and categorize them. Explain how the categories were selected.
- Do all students in the class have the same size hands and feet as each other? Trace outlines of hands and feet and compare them. Do taller students have larger hands and feet or does height not seem to matter?