100 Science Fair Projects

The new school year is well under way. In many science classrooms around the world, students are engaging in hands-on science experiences. Many are beginning to give thought to the annual science fair project that often takes place in the spring.

Inquiry based science fair projects are the keystone of student science fairs. They follow the scientific method rather closely and have several parts including a control and a variable.

Inquiry based science projects allow students the opportunity to become the scientist themselves, using their own observations and experiences to ask questions and form hypotheses. Ultimately students design an experiment to test their hypothesis against variables.

Independent Variable: What the scientist will be changing during the experiment
Dependent Variable: What the scientist will be measuring or observing.
Controlled Variable: What the scientist keeps the same during the experiment.

100sciencefairMany educators believe all hands-on science is inquiry science, but that is not accurate. Inquiry implies that students are in control of an important part of their own learning where they can manipulate ideas to increase understanding. As students learn to think through the designs and developments of their own inquiry, they also develop a sense of self-responsibility that transcends all subject areas.

At the elementary level, science depends on the ability to identify and accumulate facts (grammar stage), organize and analyze those facts (logic stage), interpret and theorize about the facts, and communicate those interpretations and theories to others as they move investigations into their communities and participate in solutions to science and technology issues (rhetoric stage).

The 5 features of science inquiry

  • Student Engages in Scientifically Oriented Questions
  • Student Gives Priority to Evidence in Responding to Questions
  • Student Formulates Explanations from Evidence
  • Student Connects Explanations to Scientific Knowledge
  • Student Communicates and Justifies Explanations

Although each component is important, helping students use evidence to create explanations for natural phenomena is central to science inquiry. You can reinforce the creation and critiquing of arguments in your classroom by asking, “How do you know?” Student answers (both verbal and written) should include evidence. Additionally, you should look for opportunities for students to critique the use of evidence in science news, reports and other media.

Students should practice science in the classroom the way that scientists and engineers do. Provide opportunities to work in collaborative groups to solve problems and explore challenges. Science and engineering practices should not be isolated inquiry activities, but 
permeate the entire curriculum.

Below are 100 ideas for incorporating inquiry science into you curriculum and to kick-start the planning for your science fair project.

100 Science Fair Projects

Life Science

  1. Study the conditions under which mold grows best.
  2. Figure out what is the best preservative to prevent mold growth.
  3. Do plants really respond to music? Affection? Sound?
  4. What type of fertilizer or “plant food” works best?
  5. Sugar level in plant sap at different times and dates
  6. Effect of salinity on brine shrimp or other organism
  7. Can paper chromatography be used to identify different species of plants?
  8. Study the effects of phosphates on aquatic plants.
  9. Compare organic fertilizer versus chemical fertilizer.
  10. Test the effects of heat, light, carbon dioxide, pH level, etc. on the germination rate of monocots compared to dicots.
  11. What factors affect the rate of photosynthesis (temperature, light intensity, water, carbon dioxide, part of the light spectrum, etc.)?
  12. Do the numbers and sizes of leaf stomate vary with different plants?
  13. Study the effect of light or temperature on Vitamin C content of orange juice.
  14. What are the effects of water temperature on the color of fish?
  15. Do the non-smoking sections in a restaurant protect you from second-hand smoke?
  16. Does caffeine have an effect on blood pressure?
  17. Are herbs (or essential oils) a viable alternative to modern medicines?
  18. Which is better – commercial antacids or herbal remedies?
  19. Does playing video games affect heart rate?
  20. What time of bread grows mold the fastest? Compare the buns of various fast-food restaurants.
  21. Are some types of makeup more prone to bacterial growth?
  22. Compare the rate of mold growth on different milk samples (Vitamin D fortified, 2%, 1%, RAW, etc).
  23. Study of insect of animal behaviour versus population density.
  24. Study insects’ adaptations to pesticides or availability of food. Does their body structure change over time?
  25. What is the effect of caffeine or tobacco on the growth of mealworms?

getting started cover

I have written a guidebook to inquiry science with middle school students. It is available in my store.

Earth Science

  1. Does the height of a volcano affect the viscosity of the lava?
  2. Grow a crystal garden. What factors affect the rate and size of crystal growth?
  3. Is there a relationship between sunspot cycles and earthquakes?
  4. Study the small scale wind currents around buildings.
  5. What effects the rate of evaporation the most – temperature, humidity, wind speed, or other factors?
  6. Make observations of geomorphic factors in your local area.
  7. Do the phases of the moon affect the barometric pressure?
  8. Make an instrument to test the soil and find out how compacted it is.
  9. Study the effects of solar activity on radio reception.
  10. What factors affect the slope stability of sand/gravel hillsides?
  11. What substance is best to use in blocking floodwaters?
  12. Study the impact of feed lots on the environment.
  13. How does particle size affect the porosity of soil?
  14. Explore methods of controlling erosion.
  15. Compare the erosion rates of different soil types.
  16. How does the weather affect the salinity of natural aquifers (lakes, rivers, bays, etc.)?
  17. Some intertidal animals in the low tide zone and others in high tide zones. How much time does each zone spend out of water during a tidal cycle?
  18. When are tidal height differences the greatest?
  19. Study the effect of water depth on wave velocity.
  20. Does the moisture content of soil affect the color?
  21. Can mapping earthquakes help identify fault lines?
  22. Build a simple model system to simulate underground water flow, simulate various underground conditions, and test your predictions on water flow.
  23. Which materials make the best compost?
  24. How does soil affect the pH of water?
  25. Investigate how the volume of wet sand changes under pressure.

Follow Eva Varga’s board Science Inquiry on Pinterest.

Physical Science

  1. Explain how trajectory affects flight distance and vice versa in paper airplanes.
  2. Explain how putting a spin on a ball affects the flight pattern. (How does a curve ball work?)
  3. Which anti-bacterial hand lotion is most effective? (Grow your own bacteria in a petri dish.)
  4. Which brand of popcorn is best? (As judged by which brand leaves the least amount of kernels unpopped.)
  5. Which stain remover works best?
  6. Analyze soil samples for their components, ability to hold moisture, fertility, and pH.
  7. Test the mineral concentrations in hard and soft water.
  8. Compare the results of a common gak or silly putty recipe using different types of glue.
  9. What types of paper decompose the most rapidly when buried?
  10. Compare the surface tension of various liquids.
  11. Study the radiation patterns from different antenna types.
  12. Do bends in fiber optic cable cause loss of audio data transmission?
  13. How does the curvature or materials of different lenses affect a light beam?
  14. Does water droplet size affect rainbow brilliance?
  15. How will the height from which an object falls affect the distance another object moves when struck?
  16. How is the density of a substance/object changed as its temperature changes?
  17. Measure your reaction time and compare it to your friends and family with this fun experiment.
  18. How does the position of a violin or guitar affect the volume?
  19. Do different businesses play different tempos in background music?
  20. Do different businesses use different air fresheners or scents to influence their customers?
  21. Determine how high a basketball bounces on different surfaces relative to the height from which it was dropped.
  22. Find out how the simple aperture design of a pinhole camera works to control the way light enters the lens of your camera.
  23. What setting of a digital camera takes the better picture of a small object?
  24. How does the shape of a bottle affect the sound when you blow across the top?
  25. Test the absorptivity of different materials (sorbents) to discover which ones are best at removing oil from water.

science fairs

I wrote a five day series earlier this year, The Ins & Outs of Science Fairs, to provide a step-by-step approach to creating a successful science fair project.

Engineering & Design

  1. How do different bridge designs affect the strength of the bridge?
  2. What is the most efficient design for a windmill?
  3. How does the weight and shape of an object affect the rate by which it sinks?
  4. Why do the inside of cars get so hot in the sun? What ways can you reduce this heat?
  5. Design and build an automatic recording weather device. Test it over a period of time.
  6. Create a 3-dimensional, free-standing marble run.
  7. Comparing insulative properties of various natural and commercial insulators. Which are the best?
  8. Which style of roof truss is the strongest?
  9. Demonstrate how an AM radio detector can be constructed out of scrap materials and explain the function of the various components.
  10. How does air pressure, materials, and construction of a ball affect its ability to bounce?
  11. Design a spaghetti noodle and mini-marshmellow tower.
  12. How much force is required to advance a lag bolt (large wood screw with a hex-shaped head) into a piece of wood? How do different types of wood compare?
  13. Is there a correlation between electric motor cooling and efficiency?
  14. What is the most efficient design for a windmill?
  15. Invent a device that can launch a pom pom or marshmallow (the farther the better).
  16. Design and construct a robotic insect.
  17. Create a Bristlebot (made from the head of a toothbrush, a battery, and a small motor) and compare the speed of different toothbrushes.
  18. Test a variety of skateboard wheels on their ability to make a 90 degree turn.
  19. How does ski wax affect the sliding friction of skis? You can model this with an ice cube sliding down a plank: how high do you need to lift the end of the plank before the ice cube starts to slide?
  20. Can you design a toy car that is powered by wind? What is the best design?
  21. Build a water clock.
  22. Can aquatic plants promote pesticide breakdown?
  23. Determine the best gear ratio for your bike, to get the highest speed after a curve and onto a straightaway.
  24. Can rooftop gardens also keep your house cooler and lower your energy bill?
  25. Investigate how changing the angle of an inclined plane affects how the Slinky walks down it. What angle will enable the Slinky to go for the best walk?

 

For more science resources, check out these wonderful 100 Things posts by my friends at iHomeschool Network:

 

100things

This post is one of 100 posts compiled by the bloggers of iHomeschool Network, 100 Things. Be sure to visit and enter to win over $370 in cash and prizes.

The Ins & Outs of Science Fairs: Getting the Most Out of a Science Fair

This is the fifth and final post in a 5 day series, The Ins & Outs of Science Fairs

science fairs

Competing at local, regional, and state science fairs is a great way for students to learn more about science. Science encourages an open mind, tenacity enough to find an answer to your question, critical skills, and honesty.

Kids get a great deal of confidence and satisfaction from having participated in a science fair; it’s a great confidence builder. It is a good opportunity to teach ethics, and for students to learn it is ok to be wrong.  For example, sometimes the data does not support the hypothesis.

Some science fairs invite community scientists, local doctors, professors, field scientists, researchers, geologists, to judge the students’ projects.  In most cases these “judges” do not give a rating.  They discuss the project with the individual students, ask questions, and give complements and suggestions for improvement.

getting the most out of a science fairTips for Attending a Science Fair

  • Don’t try to see it all – pick 2-5 projects and really see those
  • Choose a different age group for each project you visit
  • Spend time listening to the student present their project
  • Ask open-ended questions and avoid criticisms
  • Enjoy listening to the learning that is happening
  • Experience the fun the student has had preparing and now presenting to you
  • Ask about family interaction with the project
  • Keep the student talking

The Ins & Outs of Science Fairs: Preparing Your Display Board & Presentation

This is the fourth post in a 5 day series, The Ins & Outs of Science Fairs

science fairs

Preparing Your Science Fair Display Board

For almost every science fair project, you need to prepare a display board to communicate your work to others. In most cases you will use a standard, three-panel display board that unfolds to be 36″ tall by 48″ wide. Be sure to check the rules and regulations of your local fair, however.

Organize your information so that your audience can easily follow your experiment by reading from top to bottom, then left to right. Include each step:  abstract or summary (in brief, what is your project share or demonstrate), question or problem, hypothesis, variables, background research, results, materials and methods, and finally your conclusion.

You may also wish to include acknowledgements to give thanks to those who helped you along the way.  This is particularly true if resource specialists or other scientists provided assistance.
display board

The title should be big and easily read from across the room. Choose one that accurately describes your work, but also grabs peoples’ attention.

Use photos or draw diagrams to present non-numerical data, to propose models that explain your results, or just to show your experimental setup.

Your laboratory notebook and any materials you used may also interest. Again, be sure to check the rules for your science fair.

Preparing Your Science Fair Presentation

  • If you can communicate your science fair project well, you improve your chances of winning.
  • Write up a short “speech” (about 2–5 minutes long) summarizing your science fair project. Talk about how you developed the idea, the theory behind it, and why your project turned out the way it did. You will give this speech when you first meet the judges.
  • Practice explaining your science fair project to others and pretend they are judges. You may wish to organize a list of questions you think the judges will ask you. Prepare answers to these questions and then practice answering them.
  • Practice explaining your science fair project in simple terms so anyone can understand it.

science fair display boardTips for Success During the Science Fair Judging Period

  • Dress nicely.
  • Make good use of your display board. Point to diagrams and graphs when you are discussing them.
  • Be positive and enthusiastic.
  • Be confident with your answers and speak clearly.
  • It is okay to say “I do not know.”
  • Treat each person who visits you like a judge, even nonscientists.
  • After the science fair, ask for feedback from the judges to improve your project.

Join me again tomorrow for the final installment in the Ins and Outs of Science Fairs: Getting the Most Out of a Science Fair.

 

The Ins & Outs of Science Fairs: Inquiry Based Science Fair Projects

This is the third post in a 5 day series, The Ins & Outs of Science Fairs

science fairs

At the dialectic or logic stage (i.e. middle school), students should be expected to utilize the science skills they have been developing the past few years to design and carry out their own experiment. Students at the grammar stage (elementary school) may feel more comfortable with the project alternatives I described in my post yesterday, The Ins & Outs of Science Fairs: Types of Science Fair Projects.

Scientific inquiry refers to the diverse ways in which scientists study the natural world and propose explanations based on the evidence derived from their work.

An inquiry based project is essentially an experiment whereby a student scientist tests a hypothesis. It needs to have several parts including a control and a variable. It also needs to follow the scientific method rather closely.

Independent Variable: What the scientist will be changing during the experiment
Dependent Variable: What the scientist will be measuring or observing.
Controlled Variable: What the scientist keeps the same during the experiment.

Steps to the Scientific Method

  1. Choose Topic – Is there something that interests you? Is there something about it that makes you wonder?
  2. Research Topic – Take time to gather information and discover what others have learned.
  3. Write Your Experimental Question – Ask a specific question that can be answered in a measurable way. Typically, if the question can be stated, “How will _______________ affect _____________?”  students will be able to design a successful experiment.  The first blank would be the independent variable whereas the second blank would be the dependent variable.
  4. Write Your Hypothesis – Based on your knowledge of the subject, make an educated guess or prediction about what you think will happen. Essentially, answer your experimental question before you begin your experiment.  In your report, provide some reasoning for your prediction.
  5. Write Your Step-by-step Procedure or Experimental Plan
  6. Collect all the Materials
  7. Conduct Your Experiment and Collect Data/Observations in a Journal – Your data may include notes, tables, drawings, photographs, or a combination. Use this information to create graphs and charts to help determine if your hypothesis is true or false.
  8. Draw a Conclusion – Don’t worry if your prediction or hypothesis turns out differently than you anticipated. Some of the best science is when our predictions are wrong. Use the data you organized to help determine why? Perhaps you have come up with new questions?
  9. Build a Display
  10. Prepare an Oral Presentation

inquiry scienceInquiry Based Science Fair Projects

For successful inquiry based science fair projects, begin by choosing a general area that interests you and then try to narrow it down from there. Most project ideas can be adapted to fit younger or older students. Here are few ideas to get you started:

Life Science

  • Study the conditions under which mold grows best.
  • Figure out what is the best preservative to prevent mold growth.
  • Do plants really respond to music? Affection? Sound?
  • What type of fertilizer or “plant food” works best?
  • Sugar level in plant sap at different times and dates
  • Effect of salinity on brine shrimp or other organism

Earth Science

  • Does the height of a volcano affect the viscosity of the lava?
  • Grow a crystal garden. What factors affect the rate and size of crystal growth?
  • Is there a relationship between sunspot cycles and earthquakes?
  • Study the small scale wind currents around buildings
  • What effects the rate of evaporation the most – temperature, humidity, wind speed, or other factors?

Physical Science

  • Explain how trajectory affects flight distance and vice versa in paper airplanes.
  • Explain how putting a spin on a ball affects the flight pattern. (How does a curve ball work?)
  • Which anti-bacterial hand lotion is most effective? (Grow your own bacteria in a petri dish.)
  • Which brand of popcorn is best? (As judged by which brand leaves the least amount of kernels unpopped.)
  • Which stain remover works best?

Engineering & Design

  • How do different bridge designs affect the strength of the bridge?
  • What is the most efficient design for a windmill?
  • How does the weight and shape of an object affect the rate by which it sinks?
  • Why do the inside of cars get so hot in the sun? What ways can you reduce this heat?

Join me tomorrow when I share details on Preparing Your Display Board and Presentation.

The Ins & Outs of Science Fairs: Types of Science Fair Projects

This is the second post in a 5 day series, The Ins & Outs of Science Fairs

science fairs
Sometimes students will begin with a topic of interest and develop a science fair project around what they are passionate about.  For others, it may be easier to choose a project idea once you’ve determined what sort of project interests you. Today, I would like to talk about the types of science fair projects so that you understand what is expected.

Most science fairs allow a variety of projects to be exhibited and there are a few different types of projects that students can choose from. What is acceptable for elementary school may not be for a high school or middle school science fair project.

If the science fair is going to be judged, make sure that you know the rules so that you don’t get disqualified on a technicality.

Also, state, regional or national science fairs may have different rules. If you do the wrong kind of project, it can keep you from going on to those larger science fairs. Plus you could end up with a bad grade, even after all your hard work.

grammar stage scienceGrammar Stage Science Fair Projects

While older children are generally capable of undertaking inquiry based projects, younger elementary students may feel more comfortable with some tried and true project alternatives.

Models

A model is a project by which the student scientist demonstrates a scientific principle. For example, one popular project is a model of the solar system that demonstrates how all the planets orbit. A good model will have all the parts clearly labeled and will be as accurate as possible. Models are often the easiest science fair projects to complete.

Demonstrations

Demonstrations are often confused with science experiments, but they are not the same thing. A demonstration is similar to a model, but it generally has a reaction or interactive parts that demonstrate a scientific principle. For example, the popular volcano “experiment” is actually a demonstration.

Dialectic Stage Science Fair Projects

Collections

A great project for advanced grammar stage students is to display a collection to illustrate your understanding of a concept or topic. However, simply showing off your butterfly collection will not likely win you any prizes. How can you expand upon your collection and take it farther?

Perhaps you could show off your butterfly collection and observe how wing lengths of the insects differed from year to year and look into possible explanations for the phenomenon. Students at the dialect stage could investigate a correlation with pesticide use, temperature, or precipitation.

Surveys / Polls

Surveys are excellent projects for children. Surveys help children organize data and test different theories. For example, does eating a healthy breakfast improve students’ test scores? Surveys can be used to gather information to prove the statement true or false.

The survey could be given to students before a test that asks them what they ate for breakfast that morning. After the test, the grades of the students who ate breakfast can be compared against those of the students who did not eat breakfast. Did the students who ate a healthy breakfast do better on the test than the students who answered that they didn’t eat breakfast?

Inquiry Projects (aka Experiments)

An true inquiry based project or experiment is something that tests a hypothesis. It needs to have several parts including a control and a variable. It also needs to follow the scientific method rather closely. Experiments can be difficult to set up, however, and many students struggle with identifying both a control and a variable.

Join me again tomorrow when I will be talking more about inquiry projects – the cornerstone of the dialectic or logic stage science.

The Ins & Outs of Science Fairs

More often than not, when you talk to families about science (whether they homeschool or not), you will find one thing in common. The dreaded science fair.

“It’s such a chore! I don’t see the value in it!”

Entering a science fair project into a competition involves more than just completing a fun science experiment. The student needs to have a great idea and then create an informative and eye-catching display as well as demonstrate presentation and interview skills.

Competing at local, regional, and state science fairs is a great way for students to learn more about science. Participation encourages an open mind, tenacity enough to find an answer to your question, critical thinking skills, and honesty.

Over the next five days, I will walk you through all the ins and outs of science fairs.

science fairs

Tuesday – Types of Science Fair Projects

Most science fairs allow a variety of projects to be exhibited and there are a few different types of projects that students can choose from. On Tuesday, I’ll share several types of science fair projects and for what grade level they are best suited.

Wednesday – Inquiry Based Science Fair Projects 

Inquiry based activities closely resemble the skills and processes of science undertaken by scientists and incorporate the nature of science in more meaningful ways than traditional, cookbook type labs. Be sure to stop by Wednesday to learn more about inquiry based science fair projects.

Thursday – Preparing Your Display Board & Presentation

You’ve selected a topic, gathered your materials, and worked through your project.  You’re now ready to present.  Join me on Thursday when I walk you through the steps for preparing a display board and provide tips for a great oral presentation.

Friday – Getting the Most Out of a Science Fair

Not only are science fairs a great confidence builder, students often find inspiration and ideas they would like to pursue themselves.  On Friday, I’ll share tips for getting the most out of science fairs – as a participant and as an observer. 

Bonus – 100 Science Fair Ideas

100 ideas for incorporating inquiry science into your curriculum and to kick-start the planning for your science fair project.