December 14, 2018

Help! My Kid Has a School Project Due!


Spring is the time for new beginnings, blooming flowers and new wildlife, but it is also the time for school projects. As we enter the final months of school, often a culminating project demonstrating a child’s understanding of the content taught is a requirement.

This can be a bit daunting for both students and parents, but taken a step at a time, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. In fact, if you follow these steps, it can be E.A.S.Y!

Establish the Focus of the Project
—The first step is to decide on the topic your child wants to investigate. This is best done working together to come up with ideas that your child is really interested in and posing that idea as a question. It is important that your child select the area to study because, in this way, he/she will be motivated to learn about it and will be enthusiastic when creating the visual project that will be a key element when presenting the project at school. Think TED Talks. An enthused speaker can motivate and excite others and will be more motivated to learn about the topic while preparing the presentation.

Example : A Science Fair Project, “How does litter impact a watershed?” can be demonstrated by building a model of a watershed with mountains, valleys and waterways that flow into the ocean.

Access Material —The next step is to access all of the materials needed to create the project. Begin with information found through books, on the Internet and in other sources such as magazines and brochures. After researching the topic, talk with your child about the best way to teach others the information. Did the teacher assign a particular format, or set rules for a science fair project? Even if your child designs the project based on these rules, a creative interpretation will set your child’s project apart from others.

Once a topic is selected, gather materials needed to create the presentation. In my book, “How to Have the Best Super-Duper School Year Ever!” I recommend keeping materials that might be needed for special projects in your home to avoid “surprise” assignment panic. Some of the most common project materials to keep on hand are: poster board, three-sided display board, poster embellishments, stickers, border, decorative duct tape, crayons, markers, glitter, die-cuts (stars, thematic shapes, etc.), watercolor paints, tempera paints and construction paper.

Example : For the watershed model, a child can create a model using paper maché that can be painted to represent mountains, streets, vegetation, waterways, sand and ocean. The model can have houses, animals and cars with items labeled. An accompanying key can have explanations about each stage of the labeled water movement and the impact it has on the environment.

Stay Focused —Your child has decided on a topic, researched facts, learned about the topic, thought of a great way to present the information and gathered all of the needed supplies. Now it is time to dig in and stay focused through the completion of the project.

It is easy for children to procrastinate and not complete the project because it almost feels like everything is finished once the materials are gathered, but the project is not finished until it is presentation-ready.

One way to keep your child on track is to dedicate a certain amount of time each day to working on the project, keeping in mind that some parts of the project will take longer than others. Often taking little steps makes creating a large project more manageable.

Give your child a written calendar with a timeline showing the starting date and the due date, then on each day’s calendar space, write exactly what will be completed that day, making sure to have the project completed a couple of days ahead of the due date. As each day’s task is completed, your child can cross off that day. The visual of seeing the project getting completed is a great motivator for finishing the project.

Example: If the timeline is a total of two weeks for completion of the watershed project, on each calendar day write the part of the project that will be completed, such as design model, build model, paint or color model, add accessories, label the model, plan the key, write the key on a poster board and decorate the board.

You Win!—On the final day of completion, have a small celebration honoring your child’s hard work and perseverance. It is a good idea to let your child practice presenting the project to a family audience so he/she will feel more comfortable and experienced when presenting at school. It is also a great time to work out any kinks and to be sure all parts of the project function and can be easily seen and understood. If anything needs to be modified, there is still time to do that. On the day the project is transported to school, be sure to allow time in the morning to pack it carefully, load it into the car and allow your child to carefully get it to the classroom.

Creating school projects can be fun and is a great hands-on way to learn. Your child can be successful by thoughtfully selecting a topic, having strong adult support, acquiring the needed materials and planning the time to work consistently on the project.

It’s E.A.S.Y!

For questions or comments, please send e-mail to, with “Ask Amy” in the subject line. I would love both feedback and questions.