Science Projects Archive

  • Hot Water Convection

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    This experiment is designed illustrate how hot springs work and where the hot water is coming from.It shows hot water convection very well to the students . Because hot water is being used and to prevent accidents, an adult should always be assisting. (Adult supervision recommended.)

    Supplies You Will Need:

    4 identical, clear, jars
    Hot water
    Cold water
    Blue dye or food coloring
    Red dye or food coloring
    Two index cards (large enough to cover the mouth of the jars)
    An area that is okay to get wet

    Procedure:

    Take all of your materials to the area that is ok to get wet.
    Using cold water from the sink fill two of the jars to the top with cold water. Put blue food coloring into both jars and then slowly add more water until it “bulges” around the rim of the jars.
    Fill the next two jars with hot water from the sink. Put red food coloring in these two jars and slowly add more water to for the bulge as with the blue jar.
    Place the index card on top of one of your red jars, then quickly turn the jar over while holding the index card in place. This should form a seal preventing the water from leaking out.
    Place the upside down jar on top of a blue jar, make sure the mouths of the jar line up perfectly. Then slowly remove the index card from between the two.
    Complete the same process only with the blue jar on top and the red beneath it. Take notice of the difference in the reactions of the water in both sets of jars.

    What You Will See:

    With the red jar on top you should notice that the colored water remains separated, very little blending of the two will occur.

    With the other jar you should notice that the blue water will sink forcing the red water into the top jar. This is because cold water is “heavier” than hot water and is a good illustration of hot water convection.

    This is the same process that happens in hot springs. As the water at the surface cools it flows down into cavities beneath the springs that are filled with hot water. This causes the hot water to be forced to the surface, and results in a self-cycling process that keeps the spring hot at all times.

  • Insect Memory Science Experiment

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    Have you ever wondered how bees remember where to find food? Bees don’t have sharp vision like we do but they do see polarized light (this tells them direction based on the suns location). They also recognize patterns both natural and man-made. Some bee keepers will draw a pattern on a new hive so that the bees know which one is theirs (since all the hives look the same from the outside). Knowing that bees recognize patterns and symbols let’s see if you can fool them or if they truly remember.

    What You Need:

    5 large index cards
    5 small dishes (like petri dishes)
    5 zip-lock bags
    1/2 cup sugar
    A permanent marker
    1 cup water

    Procedure:

    On each of the index cards draw a symbol. This can be a shape or number or anything as long as it is bold and noticeable.
    Place the cards inside the zip-lock bags so they do not get ruined outside.
    Set the bags outside in a sunny spot in your yard.
    Place one dish near each symbol.
    Mix up the “nectar” that you will use. To do this you will want to heat the water until it nears the boiling point. This can be done by placing it in the microwave for 60-90 seconds. Now stir the sugar into the water until it all dissolves.


    Place the sugar water in one of your dishes. Fill the other four with regular water.
    Over the next few days watch and see how long it takes the bees to find the dish with sugar water.
    After they have been feeding for a few days move the dish to a different symbol. Take note of the reaction of the bees, how long does it take them to find the right dish again?
    Once they have found it and used it for a couple of days try leaving the dish where it is but switching out the symbol near it. How do the bees react to this?

    You should see a pattern of sorts developing, it will paint a picture of how bees (and other insects) remember where to find food. It will also tell you what they use more, sight or one of their other senses. Here is another experiment that you may like, teling you how insects may be beneficial.

  • Using Bread to Show the Importance of Hand Washing

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    (this will show how washing hands can significantly reduce the spread of bacteria)

    Idea Behind the Experiment

    Bacteria is a fact of life. It is all around us every single day. That is why washing our hands is so important. This experiment is designed to use bread (and the speed that it molds to demonstrate this point). Washing your hands or using hand sanitizer will greatly reduce the spread of bacteria in day to day life.

    What you are Going to Need

    4 Slices of white bread (white bread makes the mold growth extremely apparent)
    4 zip lock bags (large enough to hold a single slice)
    Hand Sanitizer
    Rubber gloves
    Anti-bacterial hand soap
    Poster board
    Paper towels

    Procedure

    It is important that you start this experiment with soiled hands, there is no need to get them especially dirty though. Just make sure that you have not washed your hands in a few hours. Or perhaps you could make it a point to handle something such as dirty dishes or something that is touched routinely by other people but not cleaned.

    Using dirty hands, take one of the slices of bread and handle it. Try not to crush the bread but make sure it comes into contact with your hands in multiple spots
    Place it in the zip lock bag and seal it
    Make sure you label the bag as “dirty hands” or something similar
    Wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap and dry them with clean paper towels.
    Repeat step one making sure to handle the bread thoroughly
    Seal the bag and label it as before
    Next you are going to want to use the hand sanitizer and repeat the process
    Finally, we want to use the rubber gloves. To handle the final piece of bread then to seal it in the zip lock bag

     

    Now you should pin each bag to your poster board. Make sure to label each bag with the date that you are starting your experiment. Over the following days and weeks, you are going to want to monitor your bread slices for mold growth. As soon as you see any mold make sure to label it with the date.

    What to Expect

    Over the course of the experiment (1-2 weeks) you will start to see some seriously gross results. The bread that you handled with dirty hands should mold first and the rate of mold growth will be rapid. In some cases, by the end of the experiment the bread that was touched with dirty hands will be unrecognizable. While the bread that was handled after using some form of disinfecting will mold at a much slower rate. This shows that while the soap and hand sanitizer doesn’t completely eliminate bacterial it greatly reduces the amount present.

    Finally, the bread that was handled with new/sterile rubber gloves will have little to no mold at all. This demonstrates that when bacteria are not present at all the mold growth is significantly reduced.

     

  • How to Make a Compass

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    This second grade science project is designed as a follow-on to the make a magnet experiment above. We show how to make a compass out of common everyday items, and continue introducing young students to the concept of magnetism.

    Materials

    Paperclips
    Strong Bar magnet
    Compass
    Small block of Styrofoam
    Small cork, cut so it will float with the flat side up
    Plastic or glass bowl large enough to hold the Styrofoam
    About a pint of water

    Preparation

    The only preparation needed for this second grade science project is to collect the materials in advance.

    Project Day
    Using a magnet as a compass

    Gather everybody around the table you will use for the demo. Tell them in this second grade science project, we will see if it is possible to make a compass.

    (If you have not done a compass experiment yet, now might be a good time to take the compass out and show them how it works. A very basic project is available at What a compass does if needed.)

    When ready, put just enough water in the bowl so that the Styrofoam will float without hitting the bottom of the container. Balance the bar magnet on top of the Styrofoam and watch what happens!

    The “N” part of the magnet will point North. Get the actual compass out. Keep it well away from the magnet or the compass won’t point in the right direction … and show the students what the compass says is North.

    Now carefully pick up the bowl of water and try to move around so that the “N” part of the floating magnet points in a different direction. Be sure to let the students see that no matter what direction you turn, the magnet will point North. And … that is precisely the point. We just made a compass out of an old magnet, a bucket of water and some old left-over piece of styrofoam! (Kinda like what MacGyver would do?).
    Magnetizing a paperclip

    Now take one of the smaller paperclips and unfold it so you have one end with a hook and the rest as a straight piece of wire. Rub the end of the paperclip (without the hook) against the magnet back and forth at least 30 times. Rubbing only about ½” on the end of the paperclip should do just fine. Make sure you magnetized it by trying to pick up another paperclip. Rub it on the magnet again if it appears to be too weak.

    Making a paperclip compass

    When the wire is magnetized, continue on with this second grade science project by carefully balancing it on the flat cork, then float the whole works in the bowl of water.

    It will be slower this time because the magnet is not as strong, but you should see the straight end of the paperclip heading toward North.

    What just happened?

    For the teacher – The final result for this second grade science project is that both the magnet and the magnetized paperclip try to align their magnetic fields with the earth’s, but the force of friction on the table top acts like glue to keep them from moving. However, when we float these on water, they are able to move freely. When they do that, they point North. If they always point North, we have a compass!

    For the students – A magnet “wants” to point North all the time. When we float it on the water, (hang it by a thread, balance it on a pin point, etc), it is free to move like it wants to. When that happens it points North. When it does that all the time, we have a compass.

    Summarize by answering the original question: Shouldn’t we be able to make a compass ourselves?

    If you need magnets, these kits can help:

     

    With an attraction to magnets and compasses, build both with this project:  http://how-things-work-science-projects.com/make-a-magnet-and-compass/

  • What a Compass Does – Compass Needle Deflection

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    Kindergarten science projects? I know it’s early, but I also realize kindergarten is a wonderful age of discovery – not so much on the why of it, but the “wow” of it all. Remember?

    If not, all that is needed is to watch your preschool age son, grandson, daughter or granddaughter for about 5 minutes (or the ones next door if you don’t have any yet). Youngsters get excited about learning new things. And it is refreshing. Just look through their eyes and be young again …

    I know we can’t get too detailed in kindergarten science projects with how or why things work, but we can sure wet their appetite to want to know more. If we can just keep them excited about learning new things … who knows where that will lead?

    Here are a few kindergarten science projects to help do just that. Have fun!

    What Does A Compass Really Do?

    Just what is it that a compass does? Will it always point north? Can we convince it to do otherwise? If so, how … and why would we be able to do that?

    These are some of the questions this kindergarten science project is designed to answer. It is specifically designed for very young students, but as you will see from other experiments on this site, it doesn’t take much to expand the topic to about any grade level desired.

    Enjoy! (and please be sure to let me know how they did!)

    Compass Kindergarten Science Project

    Objective

    To introduce young students to the concept of magnetism by using everyday items they are most likely already familiar with.

    Materials

    Compass
    Magnetite (if available)
    Bar Magnet

    Preparation

    No advance prep, other than gathering the materials is needed for this kindergarten science project.

    Project day

    Ask the students if anybody knows where “North” is. Let the discussion happen, and then ask how can we find out if we do not know. If nobody knows, ask if anybody can tell you what a compass is, and if it could it be used to tell us where north is. Again, let the comments come freely, and then have them each look at a compass to see where the needle points in their classroom. If you have enough for a couple groups, ask each group to point to where their compass needle is pointing. They will be able to see that everybody is pointing in the same direction … and that must be where North is.

    Then be sure to explain that the way to use the compass is to turn it until the “N” is where the needle is pointing. Yes, that is North, but now the compass will also show you where East, West and South are as well. This can be a fun game to play by itself, where each group has a compass, a direction east, west, north or south is called out and each group takes two steps in the direction called. Many versions of the same game can be played (or kindergarten science project here), but all are fun ways to learn directions and just a little about magnetism.

    Now for the second question … do they always point north? This time, have the students identify where north is again with their compass. Place the compass on a desk or table and turn it again so that the letter “N” is in the direction of the needle. Have one person slowly move the magnetite or bar magnet toward the compass and ask them what happened? If you are using a bar magnet, tell them the red end usually has an “N” stamped on it and ask if anyone can tell you why. Yes, it is marked “N” because it is the “North” end of the magnet. A compass will point to the north end of the magnet if they are close enough together. That must mean that the earth is really just one big magnet, and the compass is pointing to the north “pole” as well. Since it does, we can use it to help us find the direction we need to go if we are lost or trying to follow a map.

    If the class is especially perceptive, you can increase the depth of this kindergarten science project by turning the bar magnet around so that the “S” points toward the compass. Watch the needle spin away from it. Tell the students the arrow is trying to point away from the magnet because we are showing it the south pole side. If we pretended it was the earth’s south pole, then the arrow would still be pointing to the north pole. Make a big circular loop with your arm from the “S” on the magnet, as if you are drawing a circle around the earth and end up at the “N” to show the needle really does point “North”.

    Summarize by answering the two questions: What does a compass really do; and, will it always point to the direction north?

    For more fun projects with magnets, these kits can help:

     

    Want to try making a compass? Try this project:  http://how-things-work-science-projects.com/how-to-make-a-compass/

     


     

    Magnet

    What does a Magnet Attract?

    The previous project shows that a compass needle can be moved by a magnet (table top version or the earth itself), but what else will a magnet attract? Will it pick up paper clips? A piece of paper? How about chalk?

    I certainly agree, it is too early to discuss concepts like electron spin, as is done on the magnet science projects page, but it isn’t too early to help them understand not all things are the same, and that we just might have to try an experiment to be certain what will happen. That is the focus of this kindergarten science project.

    Here we go …

    Have Fun!
    Magnet Kindergarten Science Project
    Objective

    To introduce young students to the concept of magnetism by using everyday items they are most likely already familiar with.

    Materials

    paperclips
    small washers (as in nuts, bolts and “washers”),
    small pieces of paper, chalk, popsicle sticks, pieces of a plastic cup, etc.
    Bar Magnets, one for each group.

    Preparation

    No advance preparation, other than gathering the materials is needed for this kindergarten science project.

    Project day

    Ask if anyone has used a magnet before. Let the students give as many examples as they can, but if the discussion goes a bit slowly, help them start by asking if anybody has a refrigerator with magnets on it. They might be letters or numbers or just a small square mom or dad uses to hold up a piece of paper, a picture you colored or maybe even a photograph of grandma all by itself (at least without the need for glue or bubble gum!). Then ask if they would like to see what magnets can do right now!

    If you have some additional adult help, break the class up into as many small groups as you have magnets and samples for. While the class is getting into their groups, place different test samples on several desks or tables around the room.

    At this point, please let them know that anytime we do a kindergarten science project, we need to set some lab rules. For today’s project, only one person can touch the magnet at a time, and for now, the only thing they can use to pick up the items on the desks or tables with is the magnet. Let them know we cannot use our hands because we are trying to see what will stick to the magnet all by itself.

    When they get to their stations, ask them to look toward the blackboard, and one item at a time, write down the item on the blackboard, tell them what it is and ask them to raise their hand if they think the magnet will pick that item up. If most say yes, put a check by it. If most say no, put an X by that item. Now the fun starts.

    Hand out one magnet to a student in each group. Have each group gather around their desk or table and ask the person holding the magnet to try to get the paper, or washer, etc., to stick to the magnet. In fact, let’s see if anyone can pick the item up off the desk by just touching it with the magnet. No fair using hands!

    It is important to let every student hold the magnet at least once, but if you have limited time, it is not necessary for every student to try picking up every item on every desk. When at least two or three have had a chance to try the magnet at one station, have them move (I’ll say orderly with a smile here) to the next station.

    When each group has tried each station, have them put their magnets on the table and look toward the blackboard again. Starting from the top of the list, tell them what it is and ask by a show of hands if it will stick to the magnet all by itself? I’d be willing to bet a fair amount that not all hands will go up or down when they should. But that is ok. In fact it is most welcome.

    When the answers are not correct (or you suspect most are just guessing), have the group with that item on their table try to pick it up with the magnet while everyone else watches. That will help tie things together. They don’t even have to know they are learning to hypothesize, test and analyze, but they’ll get it just the same … and have fun doing it at the same time.

    Summarize by letting them know they guessed at what they thought would stick to the magnet, and then did an experiment to see if they guessed right. After we did the experiment, we found that only metal things can be picked up by a magnet, not paper or plastic or chalk … etc.

     

    Want to try making a magnet? Here is a project to try: http://how-things-work-science-projects.com/how-to-make-a-magnet/

    And for a whole series of other age 2-7 early leaning curriculum, see …


  • Apple Battery Project

    Normal Apple for Apple Battery

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    Electricity For Kids And Grownups Alike!

    The apple battery project is a second in a series of three fruit battery science projects for kids included on this site. It is an extension of the classic lemon battery project, and is also inexpensive, easy to set up and fairly easy to perform. In fact, with the firmness of the apple, it is easier to insert the terminals without having them touch.

    If you look at the supplies photo below, you’ll see it is the same as the lemon battery project, except that we use an apple. For the same reasons noted in that experiment, a fruit battery isn’t powerful enough to light a bulb, so a voltmeter is needed to see what happens. As such, this is also listed this as a 5th grade science project, assuming it is performed by itself. However, if it is combined with the  turning on a light bulb  experiment, the student will better understand how meter movement relates to a bulb lighting up. If that is done, this can be used in electricity experiments, or elementary science projects from about the first grade on.

     

    Time to Create an Apple Battery … Enjoy!

     

    Objective

    An apple battery only takes an apple, two nails and a piece of wire to demonstrate the concept. It’s a fun science project that helps show the way things work in a battery by using stuff we see around the house.

    As with the lemon battery, we’ll learn a little more about electricity, and probably a few new science terms along the way. This is designed to be performed on its own, but if you elect to do the “Light Bulb” experiment at the same time, it will help connect what’s going on with the voltmeter reading to lighting the light bulb itself.

     

    Apple Battery Project Supplies

    Materials

    – 1 apple
    – About 4 in. wire with insulation removed, #12 or #18 works just fine
    – 1 steel nail, #6 or 8 works great
    – 1 zinc plated nail, #6 or 8 is good
    – Small piece of sand paper
    – Knife or wire pliers to remove insulation (not shown)
    – A voltmeter that can read tenths of a volt

     

    Preparation

    The only preparation an apple battery project requires is to gather the materials, strip off the wire insulation and clean the ends of the nails and wire with the sand paper. (Gently on the zinc nail).

    Since the lemon battery and apple battery share the same project steps, concepts and “how it works” explanation, I will not try to repeat it all here. Please refer to the lemon battery experiment if more details are needed on how to conduct the lab. Only a summary of the steps required follows here.

     

    Project Day

    Split into groups as materials allow. If you are performing the light bulb project, demonstrate how the battery makes the flashlight bulb come on. Show them how the meter moves by touching the meter leads on the battery cell. Let them know if we can make the meter move using an apple instead of a battery, then the apple must be acting like a ‘real’ battery as well.

    Choose any combination of nail and wire to start the experiment. These are the terminals for our battery. Insert the ends of the terminals into the apple a little over an inch deep. Get them as close as you can without touching each other. (If they touch, the battery will be ‘shorted’ and no voltage difference will show on the meter. If that happens, just pick a new spot on the apple and try again).

    Select a DC setting on the voltmeter. Test it against an actual battery if you have one to make sure the meter is working properly. Swap the leads if you see a minus sign in the display, or take a minute to discuss polarity, and what the meter is telling you about which terminal is the cathode (+) and which is the anode (-). Using the meter on an actual battery (that has the + and – signs stamped on it) will provide the answer for them on this one.

     

    Apple Battery with Steel and Copper Terminals

    Touch one of the meter leads to each of the terminals you inserted in the apple battery (steel and copper is shown here). Note the reading. Also note that the readings may vary from setup to setup, and from trial to trial. There are quite a few things going on that we cannot control, but the important point is that we do get a voltage reading.

    Shift to another terminal combination. Zinc and steel are shown to the right. Again, note the voltage. Higher? Lower?

    Try the final terminal set. As in the lemon battery project, you should see why zinc and copper make good terminals.

    Show that if you hold the meter leads apart, touch them together, or even stick them directly in the apple themselves, nothing happens. The two dissimilar metals we used as battery terminals are needed, and they must be in the apple for the process to work. Otherwise we have no meter deflection and no apple battery.

    Tell the group that the same thing causing the meter to move is what lights the bulb in a flashlight.

     

    What just happened?

    For the teacher – please see the lemon battery experiment for a complete explanation of what’s happening in the apple battery. The process and the concepts are identical. Additional information is also discussed in the Electricity Science Projects related to Charge section.

    For the students – as long as we choose the right metals for our terminals, we can turn the apple into a battery.

    Summarize by telling the group – the apple battery voltage is too small to light a bulb, but it is the same process that happens in a battery you buy at the store.

    … And as in the other fruit battery projects, if you just need something you can pull off the shelf and do, these can sure help with that:

     

     

    What else can be made into a battery? Find out here:  http://how-things-work-science-projects.com/coin-battery-project/

     

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