BY JANET ZIMMERMAN
It's that time of year again at our house - science fair.
I'm now in my sixth year of prodding, goading and otherwise needling my child to go beyond the obvious questions and delve into a topic in depth.
My kids have always done science projects, even though they are not required until fifth or sixth grade. They complain along the way, but in the end, they're always proud of what they accomplish. Besides, science fair projects are perfect for teaching the critical thinking skills that will help them get a good job when the time comes.
My son, now in third grade, started doing projects in kindergarten. Our favorite was one in which he tested seatbelts, using raw eggs, a Spiderman car and a ramp he built with his dad.
My daughter started doing projects when she was in second grade - testing which stain remover worked best, building a solar oven with different colors inside to see which cooked a potato faster, and the one that got her a second place medal in the district finals: How does water temperature affect the breathing rate of fish?
Funny, that topic came up recently while I was searching the Web for information and found Maille Lyons' great site, www.science-fair-coach.com. She is an environmental microbiologist and mom who started blogging after a friend asked her for help on her son's science fair project. She gives practical advice on finding a creative idea, designing an experiment, graphing and designing a presentation board to keep the judges' attention.
Lyons, by the way, recommends never doing a project on water temperature and respiratory rates of fish. Oops. It just goes to show, you don't always know what will be hit. The lesson here is to find a topic the interests your child, guide him or her in the proper scientific method and do the work.
And remember, it's not about winning. It's about learning.