It can often be difficult get middle schoolers engaged in science projects, particularly if it is not a topic that lends itself to big spectacles and exciting practical explanations. Science has a general stigma of being difficult and some children form a mental barrier in their scientific learning by assuming too soon that the lesson is going to be too difficult for them to understand, which then leads to their lack of participation.
Another common issue with teaching science is that certain kids can’t understand why topics are important to them and why they need to learn about them, and consequently become quickly demotivated. Here are some tips to increase engagement and interest in science lessons, and some examples of inspiring science projects for middle schoolers.
Methods of Maintaining Student Interest in Science Projects
• Keep it practical – Practical demonstrations and student participation keep kids interested in the science lesson and prevent them from switching off the second it gets difficult. Even if the topic at hand doesn’t have an obvious accompanying experiment, try to think of a way of getting your pupils moving around the classroom and working in teams. Perhaps completing a ‘pop quiz’ for example. Practical activities also help students to remember and understand tricky concepts.
• Make it relevant – Kids are much more likely to be interested in a topic if they can see why it’s relevant to them, everyday life or their future. So why is it important to know about X type of chemical reaction? And how is Y type of kinetic force going to affect them in life? Give real-life situations where they may come into contact with the forces or chemicals you’re talking about without even realizing it; chlorine at the swimming pool for example, or fluoride in their water supply and toothpaste. You can even challenge your students by asking them to think about why the topic is useful and ways in which it is implemented on a daily basis.
• Motivate frequently – The structure of the science lesson and the techniques employed are significant in engaging your pupils. There are so many methods of encouraging science students, from questioning throughout the lesson to getting them to ask their own questions. Keep them on the ball!
• Stimulate pride – If children feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the lesson, they will automatically return to the next lesson feeling inspired and motivated. Make sure pupils feel proud of their results, progress and discoveries by the end of the session.
• Get them out of the classroom – While classroom learning is fundamental to students’ education, field trips are equally important in the learning process. If possible, get your pupils outdoors once in a while to support their inquisitive nature and get them excited about doing things differently. If your school doesn’t have the budget for a museum trip, see what science you can find in the playground or on the school field instead.
Examples of Inspiring Science Projects
• Static electricity – This topic is an easy one to get creative with and there are countless opportunities for student participation and practical activities. One easy example is to rub a balloon against the students’ hair and use the static electricity to move a tin can without touching it. Ask the kids to try to explain why this is happening before giving them some activities to complete such as changing the size of the balloon or the length or hair and recording their results.
• Growth of bacteria – Science projects that last longer than one lesson are ideal for maximizing student engagement. Not only does it give them some responsibility over their learning, but it gives them a greater sense of satisfaction at the end. A great example of this is getting pupils to grow their own bacteria on petri dishes. Ask them to get samples of everyday
objects they use such as pencils; it’s always fascinating to see how much bacteria there are on things we consider to be squeaky-clean!
• Kinetic energy – Kinetic energy can be a tricky topic for which to think of exciting projects. Building this giant chain reaction is something most kids won’t have seen before and generates a process that everyone will understand. This is the kind of simple activity that students will want to go home and show to their families, prompting an interest in their own learning.
• Acid rain – The effects of acid rain are difficult to understand and visualize without having seen it yourself from first-hand experience. Once the students have witnessed the plants becoming badly damaged by the acidic water, they will begin to understand the detrimental effects of acid rain on the environment.
Teaching science can be fun and rewarding for both the teacher and pupils.
Read more about science projects
Estelle Page is a writer from GKBCInc who worked as a classroom assistant in her college days. She loves discovering new methods that teachers use to keep their students engaged and interested in class.
She recently collaborated on an in-depth guide to motivating science pupils of all ages for Classroom Carrots.