Janice VanCleave's Guide to More of the Best Science Fair Projects

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* Complete rules and display tips
* Hundreds of exciting projects
* Helpful do's and don'ts
* 50 fun, step-by-step experiments

More Winning Science Fair Projects, Hints, and Tips from Janice VanCleave!

What can you do to create an extraordinary science project?

How is a clear and easy-to-follow display organized?

What are the do's and don'ts...

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* Complete rules and display tips
* Hundreds of exciting projects
* Helpful do's and don'ts
* 50 fun, step-by-step experiments

More Winning Science Fair Projects, Hints, and Tips from Janice VanCleave!

What can you do to create an extraordinary science project?

How is a clear and easy-to-follow display organized?

What are the do's and don'ts of science fair projects?

Where will you find the best collection of science fair ideas?

The answers—and the fun—are all in this exciting book of innovative, easy-to-understand, show-stopping science fair projects. Discover how to develop a topic from your own idea; research, create, and assemble your project; then display it in a way that will make it stand out from the crowd. Tackle some of Janice VanCleave's favorite experiments on topics ranging from astronomy, biology, and engineering to botany, geology, and oceanography. Then let your mind loose to explore whatever topic most interests you. Enjoy working on intriguing experiments while learning the secrets of science fair success!

Praise for Janice VanCleave's books

"Stunningly clear, direct, and informative projects."—School Library Journal

"[They] not only teach children the basics of science, but also entertain along the way . . . great for kids."—Parentguide

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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
No idea for a science project? Check out this book. How would you conduct a safe exploration of a hurricane? Where do you go to launch a satellite? What's the best way to study a shale's spouting mechanism? These and forty-seven more projects are outlined in this book. Janice VanCleave's books are consistently of high quality and full of good activities, and this book is no exception. Targeted to elementary students planning a science fair project, each experiment follows the basic steps of the scientific method, with detailed explanations and ideas for presenting the project. Teachers and parents planning to host, coach, or judge the fair will also profit from the ideas in the section entitled "Guide to Science Fair Projects." This is a great, easy-to-use manual for first-time science fair teachers and a good resource for school libraries. 2000, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., $14.95. Ages 10 to 12. Reviewer: J. Cook SOURCE: Parent Council Volume 8
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
In yet another of her science fair project books, VanCleave offers 50 step-by-step experiments that can lead to discovery and further experiments. Most are simple enough that they require minimal adult assistance, but children will need adult intervention to clarify explanations and understanding. VanCleave divides the book into two sections--Section 1 is a Guide to Science Fair Projects; Section 2 contains the experiments. In the introduction she explains that it is important to read Section 1 completely before proceeding with the experiments, but because of the length and detail, most children would tire before completing it. That is not to say that Section 1 is not important; it is. However, the details may overwhelm the young reader. For the most part, the experiments call for materials that are readily available and inexpensive. The directions for successfully completing the experiments are clear and concise. Questions for further experimentation are generally thought provoking; however, some seem too advanced for the intended audience. The one area of concern for this reviewer is that too much explanation for each experiment is given, leaving little room for the child to imagine, wonder, or surmise the outcomes. VanCleave moves directly from the steps in the experiments to providing a thorough explanation of the results. To be fair, this is perhaps necessary for clarity. One would hope that adults working with children would give the child only the "steps" portion of the experiment and guide any discussion about the results before providing the "ready-made" explanation. VanCleave provides an extensive glossary of terms highlighted in the experiments, and in the three appendices shegives comprehensive bibliographies of other current science experiment books and reference books for further investigation. Overall the book is quite well done and would be a good addition to any collection. 2000, John Wiley & Sons, Ages 9 up, $14.95. Reviewer: Jenny B. (J. B.) Petty
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-Using the same format as Janice VanCleave's Guide to the Best Science Fair Projects (Wiley, 1996), this title begins with several rewritten, but not significantly different, introductory chapters about the scientific method, topic research, categories, a sample project, the display, and presentation and evaluation. These concisely written chapters lead students through a well-executed project. Fifty experiments follow in the areas of astronomy, biology, earth science, engineering, physical science, and mathematics. Some of these examples have appeared in VanCleave's single-discipline titles. Each activity includes a list of materials readily available in the home, procedures to follow, and various extensions of the basic experiment with enough information to lead young scientists to further investigations. Simple black-and-white diagrams or illustrations accompany the projects. Bibliographic materials are up-to-date and include many of the author's other titles. Listings of reference books and scientific supply houses are appended. A valuable addition to science collections.-Kathryn Kosiorek, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Brooklyn, OH Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471326274
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 1/28/2000
  • Series: Science Fair Temp Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 436,553
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.54 (w) x 11.02 (h) x 0.42 (d)

Meet the Author

JANICE VANCLEAVE is a former award-winning science teacher who now spends her time writing and giving hands-on science workshops. She is the author of more than 40 children's science books.

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Table of Contents

How to Use This Book 1
I. A Guide to Science Fair Projects
Chapter 1 The Scientific Method 5
Chapter 2 Topic Research 8
Chapter 3 Categories 10
Chapter 4 Project Research 12
Chapter 5 A Sample Project 15
Chapter 6 The Project Report 22
Chapter 7 The Display 26
Chapter 8 Presentation and Evaluation 29
II. 50 Science Fair Project Ideas
1. Brighter (Astronomy) 34
2. Shadows (Astronomy) 36
3. Building Blocks (Botany--Anatomy of Plants) 40
4. Reflectors (Botany--Anatomy of Plants) 42
5. Up or Down? (Botany--Behavior of Plants) 44
6. With and Without (Botany--Physiology of Plants) 46
7. Getting Started (Botany--Physiology of Plants) 48
8. Clipped (Botany--Physiology of Plants) 50
9. 3-D (Zoology--Anatomy of Animals) 52
10. Face Forward (Zoology--Anatomy of Animals) 54
11. "Hearing" Without Ears (Zoology--Anatomy of Animals) 56
12. Oops! (Zoology--Behavior of Animals) 58
13. Juicy (Zoology--Physiology of Animals) 60
14. Break Out (Zoology--Physiology of Animals) 62
15. Super Spout (Zoology--Physiology of Animals) 64
16. Survivors (Ecology) 66
17. Spotted (Microbiology) 68
18. Jerky (Microbiology) 70
Earth Science
19. Easy Over (Geology) 74
20. Fiery Interior (Geology) 76
21. Combined (Geology--Rocks and Minerals) 78
22. Snap! (Geology--Mineralogy) 80
23. Changed (Geology--Rocks) 82
24. Splitters (Geology--Rocks) 84
25. Long Enough (Geology--Seismology) 86
26. Side-to-Side (Geology--Seismology) 88
27. Riser (Geology--Volcanology) 90
28. Magma Flow (Geology--Volcanology) 92
29. Windy (Meteorology) 94
30. Stormy (Meteorology) 96
31. Wash Out (Oceanography) 98
32. Floaters (Oceanography) 100
33. Indicators (Paleontology) 102
34. How Old? (Paleontology) 104
35. Flexible (Engineering) 108
36. Windmill (Engineering) 110
Physical Science
37. I.D. (Chemistry) 114
38. Super Chains (Chemistry--Organic) 116
39. Stickers (Physics--Electricity) 118
40. Zap! (Physics--Electricity) 120
41. Hot Box (Physics--Energy) 122
42. Up and Down (Physics--Energy) 124
43. Launcher (Physics--Gravity) 126
44. Toys and Gravity (Physics--Gravity) 128
45. Lifter (Physics--Machines) 130
46. Uphill (Physics--Machines) 132
47. Attractive (Physics--Magnetism) 134
48. Back and Forth (Physics--Magnetism) 136
49. Unchanged (Mathematics) 140
50. Polys (Mathematics) 142
Appendix A Science Project and Experiment Books 144
Appendix B Reference Books 146
Appendix C Sources of Scientific Supplies 147
Glossary 148
Index 154
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First Chapter

Chapter 1

A science project is an investigation using the scientific method to discover the answer to a scientific problem. Before starting your project, you need to understand the scientific method. This chapter uses examples to illustrate and explain the basic steps of the scientific method. Chapters 2 through 4 give more details, and Chapter 5 uses the scientific method in a sample project. The scientific method is the "tool" that scientists use to find the answers to questions. It is the process of thinking through the possible solutions to a problem and testing each possibility for the best solution. The scientific method involves the following steps: doing research, identifying the problem, stating a hypothesis, conducting project experimentation, and reaching a conclusion.


Research is the process of collecting information from your own experiences, knowledgeable sources, and data from exploratory experiments. Your first research is used to select a project topic. This is called topic research. For example, you observe a black growth on bread slices and wonder how it got there. Because of this experience, you decide to learn more about mold growth. Your topic will be about fungal reproduction. (Fungal refers to plantlike organisms called fungi, which cannot make their own food, and reproduction is the making of a new offspring.)

CAUTION: If you are allergic to mold, this is not a topic you would investigate. Choose a topic that is safe for you to do.

Once the topic is selected, you begin what is called project research. This is research to help you understand the topic, express a problem, propose a hypothesis, and design one or more project experiments-- experiments designed to test the hypothesis. An example of project research would be to place a fresh loaf of white bread in a bread box and observe the bread over a period of time as an exploratory experiment. The result of this experiment and other research gives you the needed information for the next step-- identifying the problem.

Do use many references from printed sources-- books, journals, magazines, and newspapers-- as well as electronic sources-- computer software and online services.

Do gather information from professionals-- instructors, librarians, and scientists, such as physicians and veterinarians.

Do perform other exploratory experiments, such as those in the 50 science project ideas in Part II.


The problem is the scientific question to be solved. It is best expressed as an "open-ended" question, which is a question that is answered with a statement, not just a yes or a no. For example, "How does light affect the reproduction of bread mold on white bread?"

Do limit your problem. Note that the previous question is about one life process of molds-- reproduction; one type of mold-- bread mold; one type of bread-- white bread; and one factor that affects its growth-- light. To find the answer to a question such as "How does light affect molds?" would require that you test different life processes and an extensive variety of molds.

Do choose a problem that can be solved experimentally. For example, the question "What is a mold?" can be answered by finding the definition of the word mold in the dictionary. But, "At room temperature, what is the growth rate of bread mold on white bread?" is a question that can be answered by experimentation.


A hypothesis is an idea about the solution to a problem, based on knowledge and research. While the hypothesis is a single statement, it is the key to a successful project. All of your project research is done with the goal of expressing a problem, proposing an answer to it-- the hypothesis, and designing project experimentation. Then all of your project experimenting will be performed to test the hypothesis. The hypothesis should make a claim about how two factors relate. For example, in the following sample hypothesis, the two relating factors are light and bread mold growth. Here is one example of a hypothesis for the earlier problem question:

"I believe that bread mold does not need light for reproduction on white bread. I base my hypothesis on these facts:

  • Organisms with chlorophyll need light to survive. Molds do not have chlorophyll.
  • In my exploratory experiment, bread mold grew on white bread kept in a dark bread box."

Do state facts from past experiences or observations on which you based your hypothesis.

Do write down your hypothesis before beginning the project experimentation.

Don't change your hypothesis even if experimentation does not support it. If time permits, repeat or redesign the experiment to confirm your results.


Project experimentation is the process of testing a hypothesis. The things that have an effect on the experiment are called variables. There are three kinds of variables that you need to identify in your experiments: independent, dependent, and controlled. The independent variable is the variable you purposely manipulate (change). The dependent variable is the variable being observed that changes in response to the independent variable. The variables that are not changed are called controlled variables.

The problem in this chapter concerns the effect of light on the reproduction of bread mold. The independent variable for the experiment is light and the dependent variable is bread mold reproduction. A control is a test in which the independent variable is kept constant in order to measure changes in the dependent variable. In a control, all variables are identical to the experimental setup-- your original setup-- except for the independent variable. Factors that are identical in both the experimental setup and the control setup are the controlled variables. For example, prepare the experiment by placing three or four loaves of white bread in cardboard boxes the size of a bread box, one loaf per box. Close the boxes so that they receive no light. If, at the end of a set time period, the mold grows, you might decide that no light was needed for mold reproduction. But, before making this decision, you must determine experimentally if the mold would grow with light. Thus, control groups must be set up of bread that receives light throughout the testing period. Do this by placing an equal number of loaves in comparable-size boxes, but leave them open. The other variables for the experimental and control setup, such as the environmental conditions for the room where the boxes are placed-- temperature and humidity-- and the brand of the breads used must be kept the same. These are controlled variables.

Note that when designing the procedure of your project experiment, include steps for measuring the results. For example, to measure the amount of mold growth, you might draw 1/2 inch (1 cm) squares on a transparent sheet of plastic. This could be placed over the bread and the number of squares with mold growth could be counted. Also, as it is best to perform the experiment more than once, it is also good to have more than one control. You might have one control for every experimental setup.

Do have only one independent variable during an experiment.

Do repeat the experiment more than once to verify your results.

Do have a control.

Do have more than one control, with each being identical.

Do organize data. (See Chapter 5, "A Sample Project," for information on organizing data from experiments.)


The project conclusion is a summary of the results of the project experimentation and a statement of how the results relate to the hypothesis. Reasons for experimental results that are contrary to the hypothesis are included. If applicable, the conclusion can end by giving ideas for further testing.

If your results do not support your hypothesis:

Don't change your hypothesis.

Don't leave out experimental results that do not support your hypothesis.

Do give possible reasons for the difference between your hypothesis and the experimental results.

Do give ways that you can experiment further to confirm the results of your original experiment.

If your results support your hypothesis:

For example, you might say, "As stated in my hypothesis, I believe that light is not necessary for bread mold to reproduce. My experimentation supports the idea that bread mold will reproduce without light. After 21 days, bread mold had grown both on testing samples kept in the dark and also on the control samples in the light. It is possible that temperature is a factor and that the temperature was higher inside the closed boxes due to lack of air circulation. For further testing, I would select temperature as the independent variable and test the effect of temperature changes on the growth of bread mold."

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 5, 2009

    Good ideas, and not hard for a child to do.

    Got for a project that was needed to be done in my childs science class, there was one that worked perfect that would not take a lot of time, good to use when it has to be done at the last minute.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2002

    'Just keep science in your mind all the time.'

    This book was a very good book at the time I was reading it. For my project.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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