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Syndicated column from The Parent
[FEB. 17, 2006]
Q: Our son is in sixth grade and the science
fair is coming up at his school. Last year, he put off his project
until the last minute. We were all in a state of panic from the
pressure. What can we do to make sure this year is different? How
much help should we give?
A: Projects like these can teach students important
skills in time management and research -- but they can also leave
parents wondering how involved they really should be. Some parents
get too involved. Their child may end up with a beautiful project --
and may even win the science fair -- but their child won't really
learn how science works or get the sense of independence that comes
from figuring things out on his own. Other parents take a completely
hands-off approach. This can leave their child feeling overwhelmed.
How can you strike a balance? Here are some suggestions.
Help your son
choose a project that will maintain his interest. Science
projects take a long time.
Have him make a
list of all the supplies he'll need. Make sure he includes a
notebook for recording observations or data.
Set lots of
deadlines. This is where most children need help from parents.
Six weeks seems like an eternity to a sixth-grader. Help him set
up a schedule with a deadline for each part of the project. Try
making Friday the due date. If your son has not met a particular
deadline, he can get caught up on the weekend.
Write the science
fair date on the calendar and then work backward. How long will
it take to do the project? (As many children have discovered,
plants will not grow overnight.) Will your son need to plan any
visits to complete the project? Remind him that even a trip to
the library can be hard to schedule at the last minute. Don't
forget the trips to the store to look for supplies. There's
nothing like learning your son needs six ping-pong balls and
glue just after the stores have closed.
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Include the time
it will take to create a display of what he's learned. Don't
forget to build in a day or two for the disaster that always
seems to happen as the science fair gets closer.
Keep everything in
one place. Set up a shelf, a table or a box. Put all science
fair stuff there.
Post the completed
list of deadlines in a place where you'll both see it every day.
Then, as your son achieves each step, have him cross off that
Working on a project for the science fair is a great way to
explore and learn. Your son will not only learn something about
science this year, he'll also learn some valuable time management
For more information about helping children learn or to submit
your own question, go to
http://advisor.parent-institute.com. All questions will receive
a prompt answer by e-mail.
Copyright 2006, The Parent Institute.
"Ask the Learning Advisor -- Ideas for Raising Successful
Children" is a free, syndicated column from the Parent Institute.