Have you ever had to speak in front of a group of people, or in front of a class in school? Some people get sweaty palms and dry-mouth when they have to speak to others in similar situations, and it ends up being a terrible experience for them. This is the part of the science fair project experience that can be most scary for your child. It’s never too early to start preparing for your child’s science fair oral-presentation and judging experiences, even though the science fair may not be happening for several weeks or months.
One of the ways to help your child get ready for that dreaded day NOW, is to start asking questions about the project as your child is working on it, and then have them write those questions and answers down in their notebook (don’t forget that your child needs to maintain a written journal to record everything they’re thinking and doing about their project) so the information sticks with them better. There are many studies showing that when we write things down, we create spatial relationships in our brains between the various bits of information we are hearing, saying, thinking and writing down. The process of writing things down usually means we are putting some thought into evaluating the information we’re recording. The relationships between these spatial tasks are handled by another part of the brain that allows us to then remember a higher proportion of key facts.
The questions don’t have to be complex. Have your child explain to you what they’re doing. Are they measuring something, are they making observations about the status of something? What differences are they noticing from yesterday to today with their project? Are they thinking about an expert in the field they might want to talk with about their project? Are they thinking about a photograph they might take to capture what they’re doing?
Remember when your child was “at that age” of always asking “why?” You need to do the same thing. Ask your child a lot of “why” questions. “Why did you decide to use that particular chemical or brand?” “Why do you think the liquid changed to a purple color?” “Why do you think this trial didn’t work out like the other ones?” These are the same types of questions judges will ask your child. If your child has been asked the same questions by you, then this means they’ve already thought about the answers and have a good understanding of their project. They are less likely to be nervous when you let them know that these are the same questions they’ll be asked by judges.