Who doesn’t love a good science project? And the research is in your favor – experiential learning uses proven techniques that present relevant information in a format that maximizes student intellectual capabilities and retention.
But how do you know which science project to choose for your 3rd graders? Below we have outlined the science objective for 3rd Grade, and collected some valuable science projects for you to try!
The Scientific Method for 3rd Grade
3rd Grade is a crucial year for the development of your students. It is the year where students leap from learning to read to reading to learn. With this change in focus, a whole host of other skills follow.
In the science classroom, we move away from encouraging students to be accurate about their observations and data collection. We emphasize the ability to make inferences about their observations.
This cognitive shift makes it even more important to choose the right science project for your 3rd graders.
Science Objectives for 3rd Grade
Although science standards will vary by state, some of the concepts you can expect to see in any 3rd-grade science curriculum include:
- Changes in motion caused by forces (gravity, friction)
- Weather and climate
- Forms of energy (heat, light, sound)
- Ecology (food chains, ecosystems, balance of nature, adaptations)
Below we have collected some of the most valuable 3rd-grade science projects related to the five science objectives for the 3rd grade listed above.
Parachutes: a 3rd Grade Science Project on Gravity and Friction
How does air resistance impact the speed of a falling object? Does this mean that gravity has changed?
Find out in this easy-to-set-up 3rd-grade science project on the forces of gravity and friction!
- Create your own parachutes in your 3rd grade classroom by attaching handkerchiefs to weights. The process of measuring, cutting, and constructing the parachutes can be a useful learning experience for your students. Divide the class into four groups, and assign each group a parachute to make.
- You are going to drop each group’s parachute from the same height and record how long it took to fall. Get students to brainstorm different ways of organizing and collecting the data.
- Before you experiment, ask your students to describe the expected outcome. Will the larger parachute speed up or slow down the fall of the object? This can be a valuable point to get students to argue their own point of view, and you might want to let the conversation continue until the class reaches a consensus.
- Experiment and record the data. Was the class’s hypothesis correct?
- This experiment works because a parachute creates air resistance or drag that pushes against gravity slowing down the fall of a person or object. The drag force from the parachute is less than the force of gravity.
Crayon Rock Cycle: a 3rd Grade Science Project on Geology
What is the difference between igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks? Can a metamorphic rock be transformed into igneous rock?
Find out in this easy-to-set-up 3rd-grade science project on weather and geology!
- Collect some crayons. Take them out of their packaging, and examine them carefully. This crayon represents an igneous rock. Use a cheese grater to create crayon shavings. These shavings represent metamorphic rocks. Examine them carefully. Lastly, take the crayon shavings and squish them together. The layers that form represent metamorphic rock formations.
- This 3rd-grade science project gets students to carefully think about the properties of geological objects. Make sure their observations are clear and comprehensive. Use strategies like compare-and-contrast to get the most out of these observations.
- If you have the resources, it is fun to melt the crayon shavings together using a double broiler or InstantPot. Pour the resulting mixture into an old ice-cube tray and discuss how igneous rock is formed.
Color and Temperature: a 3rd Grade Science Project on Heat as a Form of Energy
Is heat a type of energy? Do colors affect temperature? Do dark color clothes absorb more heat?
Find out in this easy-to-set-up 3rd-grade science project on forms of energy!
- For this experiment, you need pieces of material that are as similar as possible, except for their color, sunlight, and ice cubes. Place an ice cube on each different material, and use a stopwatch to record how long it takes for the ice cube to melt completely.
- Colors affect the absorption of heat. Dark colors (black, red, dark blue) absorb more heat than light colors (white, yellow, light pink). As students to infer from their data what color the ideal winter jacket would be, and what color they would choose for a summer frock.
- The ice cubes are acting as an instrument for measuring the heat absorption of the fabric. This is a good time to have a class discussion about how scientists often use an instrument that doesn’t actually measure the phenomenon itself but is closely correlated to it.
Which Food Will Mold the Fastest: a 3rd Grade Science Project on Ecology
What kind of food, if left unrefrigerated, will mold the fastest? What does this mean for the life-cycle of the mold? Is this a parasitic relationship? Why does some mold make us sick if we eat it?
Find out in this easy-to-set-up 3rd-grade science project on ecology!
- For the experiment, choose a variety of foodstuff to place in a cabinet for a week. Suggested food items are bread, cheese, milk, and a banana. Place each item on its own plate to avoid cross-contamination. Take photos of the foodstuff at the start of the experiment and at the end as data collection.
- This is a good experiment to encourage students to diversify their thinking about life cycles. We often teach the life cycles of insects or mammals and ignore how fungi reproduce. Get students to compare-and-contrast the life cycles of insects, mammals, and fungi.
- Discuss the evolutionary advantages of any disgust reactions students might have. Disgust is a way of letting us know that this is probably not good to eat or can make us sick.
Science projects are a valuable way to engage 3rd-grade students in their science learning. When doing the easy-to-set-up science projects listed above, remember that it is your engagement with your students that turns these projects from a time-filling activity into a deep learning experience. Make sure your students understand the scientific method and the value of good data collection. Engage your students in conversations that encourage them to make inferences about their observations. And most importantly: have fun!