Earth science is a wide-ranging field that introduces students to the wonders of the changing Earth, its weather and water cycles, its oceans and landmasses, and the organisms that live on its surface and in its waters. The subject matter for science projects is almost endless, and much of it appeals to kids: Earthquakes, volcanoes, storms and space travel all fall under the Earth science rubric. Because using the scientific method is an important aspect of the scientific process at this -- or any -- age, stress the importance of a testable hypothesis and neatly arranged experiments when helping a middle-schooler develop a science project.

Ask the student to pick the Earth science subtopic he would like to focus on for the science project, flipping through his textbook with him if necessary. Help him explore choices like ecology, weather, geology, oceanography or the environment. Brainstorm topics using a pencil and paper.

Narrow in on a specific subject based on the middle-schooler’s professed interests. Take a close look at the subtopics in each area: If the student is interested in microbiology, ask him to think about the way mold grows on a piece of old food and how he could test this idea; if he thinks volcanoes are neat, brainstorm ways you could test the explosive patterns and rates of volcanic flow using different combinations of baking soda and vinegar.

Have the student think about patterns in nature and ways he could apply that to an experiment at home. Explore ideas such as testing rainfall with a fan and spray bottle, or assessing plant respiration using a terrarium to measure the amount of moisture that a habitat of plants gives off in a single day. Help him look deeper into subjects such as astronomy by exploring how he could test whether stars actually move across the sky using observers made of rolled-up cardboard.

Narrow in on a single idea. Ask questions such as, “What temperatures might create steam the fastest?” if he’s interested in weather, or “How do sediment layers settle?” if geology is his preferred topic. Write down these questions, then choose one or two in the same subject area that the project will focus on.

Come up with a hypothesis once you’ve found a topic. Predict the answer to your questions, and then figure out a way to test it. Make a list of all materials you will need, and assemble them before you begin.

Items you will need

  • Science textbook

  • Pencil and paper