How much do you assist your child in a big school project? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 03-29-2011, 09:56 AM - Thread Starter
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So, DS is in third grade.  He just completed his first "real" science fair project.  The experiment part of it went very well.  We checked out some science books from the library and he read through them and found a topic he liked.  He also wrote his project proposal independently. 


However, once we got to the presentation board part of the project, he seemed to really struggle.  He understood the concepts and the outcomes of the experiment.  But, he couldn't seem to fit that into a structured format. 


For example, one of the sections was supposed to examine the findings of the experiment.  It was supposed to take up the bottom half of the middle section of the project board.  We had some photos to include so I thought a page worth of summary was fine.  He wrote one sentence.  So, I reminded him of the three things that he observed in the experiment and asked him to write a paragraph for each one, along with a short intro and conclusion.  I also helped him flush out some of the verbiage.


After he completed it, I got really worried that I helped too much.  Is this something he's supposed to be doing completely independently at this age (he just turned 9)?  How do you find that balance??

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#2 of 7 Old 03-29-2011, 11:11 AM
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I'd probably help my 9 year old out with the presentation part.  It's his very first one and with a science project, it can be daunting to try to make all the information make sense. 


It sounds like he did most of it on his own and just needed some guidance on the presentation part.  So yeah, I'd absolutely help the way you did.  Next time, you can back off a bit more and just remind of how he did it last time.

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#3 of 7 Old 03-29-2011, 11:43 AM
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I think what you did was fine! Since this was his first big project, he needs someone to help "guide" him along. It's hard to do something when you have zero experience! And it sounds like he did the majority of it himself! It sounds like you just help him fine tune it.


My 1st grader recently had a voluntary assignment for Presidents Day to do a presentation to the class. He had to choose a president and have some sort of visual aid. The whole time, I was wondering if I was doing too much even though it was presented as a "family project". But after I thought about it, he had nothing to draw on. He had no idea what the expectations were, he's never even seen a presentation by a fellow student! 


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#4 of 7 Old 03-29-2011, 12:20 PM
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I think it's not unreasonable to help a young child understand the requirements. When my kids were little, I had them do what they felt needed to be done first. Then, we'd go over the rubric together and check what had been done right and what had been ommitted. Then they'd go back and make adjustments on their own. We'd to this until all the assignment was fully completed.


I've had to step in and help with research a couple times. The internet is great but it also can offer TOO much info to a young child. They can have trouble deciphering what is "fact" and what is "opinion." They don't know always know how to come to terms with conflicting information in various books. They also get bombarded with so much info, they don't neccessarily know what is appropriate for their project and what is not. For example, when DS was in 4th grade, he was assigned a mission project. He was so proud of his research but when he showed me the paper he wrote, the whole thing was focused on the destruction of the native population. Turns out he'd read a bunch of thesis type papers on the missions. I had to actually google "4th grade mission report information" so he could find the actual info he was supposed to cover.... you know, where they are, how they started, what their purpose was, ect. Now, I have no problem with him learning about the negative impact on the native popularion and he did leave a paragraph on what he'd learned in the paper. He was just 9-years-old and didn't know how to balance everything. So yes, I did help there!


What you have to watch is taking over the visual aspects or putting your OWN requirements on the project. If the teacher didn't require a bibliography, don't make your kid turn one in. If the requirement is 2 pictures and your child is happy with two they picked, don't push it. I'm often amazed at the projects we see come in where it's obvious that the parents took over (largely because the kids don't really understand what is on their display.) Their kids don't get higher grades than mine.

Married mom of two, DD 17 and DS 14.
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#5 of 7 Old 04-11-2011, 08:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Alyantavid View Post

I'd probably help my 9 year old out with the presentation part.  It's his very first one and with a science project, it can be daunting to try to make all the information make sense. 


It sounds like he did most of it on his own and just needed some guidance on the presentation part.  So yeah, I'd absolutely help the way you did.  Next time, you can back off a bit more and just remind of how he did it last time.

I absolutely agree! Seems like you're on the right track! Anything that is a first for my children, I try to help as much as possible without being completely overbearing (which can be hard!), but it seems like he can do it, it's just confusing for the first time!


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#6 of 7 Old 04-11-2011, 09:19 AM
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We just finished our science fair and we have another large project coming up- building a building in the city. DD drew her building from a hat. Her and DH are planning the whole thing. She is doing the planning, he is drawing up ideas on a sheet of paper as she decribes. He will also do the shopping with her for supplies etc. He is more of an asst, but is having fun.


For the science fair, which she said- hey I want to do this!. We went to the kick off, looked at the different displays from previous years to get an idea how to do it. They gave us a write up to turn in a few weeks before hand so we had an idea how to present it. She had her own idea of her experiment, told me what she needed and I bought the supplies. Then we assisted her in the experiment, offered ideas, but let her hold her ground what she wanted to do. We had her write out the answers and then when it came time to make the presentation, I typed out her verbage and we helped her make the presentation display by securing and glueing. I also contributed the outline frames on each sheet posted. The judging was without parents and she got a blue first place ribbon. I worked in the hospitatlity room for the judges and a few talked to me. They told me that all the projects were great. All the kids did a great job, but if you have 40 2nd or 3rd graders enter, they are all going to be done well. But about 5 or so will stand out as excellent, outstanding. Of those, 1 of them were done by the student and the others were done by the parents. He said it come obvious during judging when you start asking questions regarding the project and the kid is tongue tied completely. And this goes for the grades K-5th. So the judging is obviously done on what the student did.  


I think its fine to lend a hand to your child, offer suggestions. But when it becomes a majority your idea, work, etc then its wrong. Sometimes its even best to let your child make a mistake,  hold their ground etc so they learn from it.

"The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly out distances us."
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#7 of 7 Old 04-12-2011, 05:48 AM
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Having gone through this more than a few times, I'd say you did fine with the level of assistance. Offering suggestions and/or guidance is not at all out of line, IMO. It's actually doing the work that is wrong. I know that even when my daughter had her big science project freshman year, I helped her find alternate sources when she didn't get responses she needed, suggested additional places to contact, suggested ways to lay it out, etc. But she had the final say and she did all the work.


My favorite project was the volcano, though. Made lots of suggestions (the second time was even better as we had ideas crop up after my son's was finished), provided materials, etc. THAT was fun!

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