The way to stand out is to avoid picking a project from a pre-packaged scien fair book. boring. Ideally, the experiment should be something that your child is interested in understanding, or should answer a question she has about the weather. At some point, someone will ask her how she got the idea for her project. In any case, here’s a quick idea.
Purpose: study heat islands - the effects of urban design on local weather. This is certainly not beyond the understanding of a bright sixth grader.
Materials: Run down to your local home improvement store and pick up some samples of various materials - brick, concrete, asphalt and slate tiles, and wood shingles. Also, pick up enough thermometers for each type of material, plus two more. They don’t have to be expensive, just all of the same type. They can be cheap, too, because she’ll be looking at trends rather than precise temperature readings. The last time I needed a bunch of cheap thermometers, I bought them from Edmund Scientific.
Setup: Place the tiles and shingles a few feet apart in a well-lit area of your backyard away from the shadows cast by your house. Suspend a thermometer a few inches above each type of material using a stick and some string. Take one of your extra thermometers and suspend it a few inches above a patch of grass and put another under a tree in some shade. Leave these items exposed for the duration of the experiment.
Procedure: Over the next two weeks, record the temperature at each thermometer at regular intervals. For a kid in schoool, check the temp in the morning before catching the bus, immediately after retruning home, and once before bed. Note and changes in weather - rain in particular.
Analysis: When she’s finished, she should be able to describe a heat island and its effect on the weather in cities. She should also be able to describe the differences between various building materials and make suggestions for reducing the heat island effect.