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earthduzt's avatar

What would be a good science project for a 1st grader?

Asked by earthduzt (3226points) April 4th, 2011

So my daughter just received her letter about entering her 1st science fair. I was wondering if anyone has any ideas on what are some good science fair projects for a 1st grader? She really wants to do something with the planets, so I’ve been trying to think of something that is not to difficult for a 1st grader to understand (she is very bright though). Would “what happened to the 9th planet?” (explanation on why Pluto is no longer classified as a “true” planet) be to complicated 1st graders to understand, as the parents we can guide them, I just don’t want to end up doing it for her. Again she would prefer doing something with the solar system, she thinks building the planets would be fun. Any ideas?

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18 Answers

El_Cadejo's avatar

Would making a model of neptune and pluto on some rig that can show pluto crossing neptunes orbit be too complicated?

I think it could be a cool like project. Just like illustrate that and say because of its small size and the crossing of obits that makes it no longer a planet.

zenvelo's avatar

How about a flashlight on a stand with two different size balls to show how an eclipse works?

earthduzt's avatar

@uberbatman yeah that would be very cool, I’m sure I could come up with some sort way to show that, the trick is hoping that she would be able to explain it..I guess I will test her out tomorrow and see what would be “too complicated for her” But great idea!

@zenvelo Great idea also, I can already see this is going to be a tough one to decide on what to do, as I’m sure there are all kinds of neat things to demonstrate that go on in our tiny fraction of the galaxy

I think I’m more excited than she is

hopscotchy's avatar

Maybe you could pick a particular planet and pose the question “Why can’t living things survive on (PLANET)” I do a Venus experiment with my kids to demonstrate how cloudy it is on Venus. You just make a mask using wax paper and pipe cleaners and walk around trying to see through the wax paper (cloudy Venus) and end up mostly bumping into stuff. Fun! Another favorite is when we send hot dog man (a man made out of hot dogs and toothpicks) to Mercury (the oven) and broil him for about 15 minutes to demonstrate that Mercury is so close to the sun. You could really get into some detail if you focus on just one planet and she could even make a model of that planet for demonstration.

gailcalled's avatar

The relative sizes and distances from the sun of Neptune and Pluto is a fairly easy concept to grasp. For example, check out basketballs or exercise balls versus peas or the head of a pin (I am too lazy to look up the actual diameters)

However, I am stunned to see a first grader who can understand the idea of the heliocentric solar system. It’s pretty abstract, if you think about it. Poor old Galileo had to bump heads with a lot of people.

How about growing tomato and basil plants in a small container. Or parsley. Then your daughter can serve Caprese salad to all.

Another project that is fun is to plot the sunrise for a month against a point on the horizon. Every few mornings the sun will rise (now at least) further and further NE of East.

You can do the same thing with one lunar month. Given that you do need clear skies, you plot the path and shape of the moon for the month. Watch it swell and shrink. Note what times it rises or sets. And see how it moves relative to the essentially stationary background of stars.

gorillapaws's avatar

If she changes her mind about the solar system, you guys can always make slime.

WasCy's avatar

A first grader doing a project on the solar system? She would have to be pretty bright – and skilled with her hands as well as able to read (or comprehend sensibly what you read to her about relative sizes and distances that are difficult for adults to comprehend). I think of where I was in first grade – and I was pretty bright, too (first kid in my kindergarten class to count to 99… and the last to 100, but still).

I would be thinking more along the lines of what she can observe directly, such as plants growing and maturing, dogs shedding hair in spring, leaves changing in the fall, different types of rocks and bugs and worms and how things fit together in nature. That sort of thing. She may enjoy the concept of the solar system, but unless she is incredibly precocious, it’s going to be pretty abstract to her at this age. If we had been studying the science of “ecology” when I was in grade school, I’d have eaten that stuff up. Literally, in some cases. Let’s not go there, either.

For that matter, why are some plants “food” for some animals, but not for others? How can cows eat grass and get so big, but dogs and humans who eat grass will get sick? What makes turnips and parsnips taste so awful? And has anyone ever cooked a radish like a carrot?

bkcunningham's avatar

Good answer @WasCy. I was reading the responses and thinking that my son’s first grade science project was not on the same level as the solar system idea. He did an experiment on different laundry detergents getting stains out of pieces of white tee-shirt materials. LOL God I loved that silly funny beautiful little boy. We had so much fun doing that experiment and fixing his table tent poster board with the splotches of material. We talked about how commercials aren’t always exactly “truthful” and how his stains are hard for me to get out of his clothes. Good times. Make it fun!

earthduzt's avatar

Isn’t the solar system more readily available to kids these days though, I mean with the beautiful images we have of the planets, they are shaped like giant balls (what kid doesn’t like round objects) they are pretty and colorful. She defiantly understands the concept of gravity and that it is relative to size and mass of an object. Now she doesn’t understand what they are made of well as far as the gaseous planets, that is a little hard for her to grasp, she thinks that you should be able to walk on all of them, but as far as the simple solar system itself she does understand that.

Off the subject of the planets though, I was thinking maybe something to do with magnets? A maglev train or something, Showing like poles repelling each other, or maybe a mspringless scale using magnets? Too difficult?

just in case I didn’t mention this before, her school is a school that is primarily focused on math, science and technology…and it is a K-8th grade school

bkcunningham's avatar

She must be very bright. Just have fun with whatever you decide. Allow her to do the work so she’ll have a sense a pride and accomplishment in the results. Most projects done by a six-year old don’t look the same way as when an adult completes the project. But in their eyes, they look amazing and they see it differently than most adults. Let her do the project you both decide on and have fun.

earthduzt's avatar

@bkcunningham absolutely, she will do it from start to finish…I will be there to just guide her and steer her in the right direction. Thank you for the encouraging words!

sarahsugs's avatar

I agree with others who have suggested that the solar system is quite an abstract concept for a first grader. I teach 3rd graders about the solar system every year and it is just barely within their conceptual grasp. That said, if she is determined to represent some aspect of it, I think explaining/demonstrating why we experience night and day could be a good project for someone her age. She could stick to just the earth, or could explore how night and day works on other planets, e.g., how the length of one earth day is not the same as one day on other planets as their rotations are slower, etc. The idea of fast/slow rotations could be a concrete enough subject for a first grader to grasp and demonstrate, as could the light and shadow of a model sun and rotating planet. Every kid I have taught is also fascinated by the idea of the people on the “other side” of the earth being asleep when we are awake, and vice versa. A good chance to bring in some geography and multiple perspectives.

Another really fun science project for a young person is to learn about and explain the difference between liquids and solids, and then to make some oobleck and discuss how it acts as neither/both a liquid and a solid.

WasCy's avatar

If she’s determined to do something on the solar system, then introduce her to something that fascinates people of all ages: a gyroscope. She can demonstrate the balancing and self-righting properties and attempt to explain “how” it works. And the concept is directly related to what makes the solar system “a system”, and not just a random accumulation of matter moving aimlessly.

Rarebear's avatar

Some sort of diorama.

gasman's avatar

Show that when water is kept in the freezer for a few hours, it freezes into ice; when returned to room temperature it melts back into water.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Why is it cold in the winter and warm in the summer? Show the rotation of the earth around the sun and the tilt of the earth.

dxs's avatar

What about the Stroop Effect?

gailcalled's avatar

My son, slightly older at the time, did the smelly chicken skeleton project. We bought a chicken at the super market and he boiled it in a stockpot with water and vinegar until the meat fell off the bones, the fluid destroyed the pot and the odor permeated our apartment for a week.

He then dried the carcass and meticulously reconstructed the bird’s skeleton.

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