October 21, 2017

High School Science Projects

Science is my favorite subject!  It’s what I teach.  I think I like it because it’s such a hands-on subject.  It’s all about discovery and getting your hands dirty.  Unfortunately, when we get to high school, we often turn science into a bunch of facts to memorize.   Though not always practical on a daily basis, it’s best to learn science by experimentation and discovery.

High School Science Projects

A long term science project is beneficial in many ways.

To that end, I recommend that at least once, possibly twice, during a student’s high school years that they complete full-on high school science projects.  One that takes several months to work through.  This does two things: (1) it builds a student’s ability to tackle a large project with many details and (2) it focuses on the discovery aspect of science.

You will find many great resources out there to guide you through a science project.  Felice Gerwitz’s An Insider’s Guide to Successful Science Fair Projects is an excellent guide – but here’s a quick overview of what a science project entails:

First, you will need to ask a question.  It can be something simple like:  Will plants grow taller if I water them with coffee rather than water?   It needs to be a question that you can realistically test.  For example, working with plants in microgravity may be difficult to do on planet Earth.

After you have asked your question, you would then conduct research to see what information is already out there.   Has someone else done similar experimentation?  What does science already know about the question that you are asking?  You will want to write a two-to-three page paper on the available research that you have discovered.

Upon completion of your research, you should now be able to formulate a hypothesis as well as design your experiment.  Carefully set up your experiment so that it clearly tests your question.  You will want to be sure there are no outside variables that affect your outcome.  For example, in the question about coffee vs. water, you will want to water some plants with coffee and some with water.  You will also need to be certain that all other factors are the same for all of your plants.  The same amount of sunshine, same soil, same temperature, etc.  You will also need to repeat your test multiple times – or in this case, with multiple plants.  If you have only one plant for each type of liquid, and one of them dies, you don’t know if it’s the liquid you gave it, or if it was a sickly plant to begin with.

The experimentation is the fun part, but you want to be sure to keep careful records of your results.  This may mean taking measurements often (use the metric system), recording yes or no results, or timing people’s reactions to a test.

Upon completion of the experiment, gather all of your data and map out your results.  Put it into a graph or similar visual representation.  You can then draw final conclusions and answer your question, determining whether or not your hypothesis was correct.

You will want to participate in a science fair.  This will give you a place to present your project.  For the fair, you will need to design a backboard and be prepared to give an oral presentation.  You will find that many local homeschooling groups hold science fairs which will give you great experience – but you may also want to reach beyond these and participate in the International Science and Engineering Fairs.  You can find information about fairs near you on their website.  These fairs hand out millions of dollars in rewards around the nation.  In addition, corporations and other sponsors attend and award their own prizes and sometimes job opportunities to projects that match their company’s vision.

Whichever route you take – taking on a science project is a great way to discover more about the world around you.  You can find many great science project ideas at Science Buddies.  If your student takes on an in-depth project like this, you can feel pretty good about calling their science an Honors course for the year as well.  🙂

~to your success!

Joanne  

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