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

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

by Janice VanCleave, Janice Van Cleave


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Janice VanCleave's Guide to More of the Best Science Fair Projects by Janice VanCleave, Janice Van Cleave

* 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 JaniceVanCleave!

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 fairideas?

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

Praise for Janice VanCleave's books

"Stunningly clear, direct, and informative projects."—SchoolLibrary Journal

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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780471326274
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 01/28/2000
Series: Science Fair Temp Series
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 1,303,023
Product dimensions: 8.54(w) x 11.02(h) x 0.42(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About 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.

Read an Excerpt

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."

Table of Contents



The Scientific Method.

Topic Research.


Project Research.

A Sample Project.

The Project Report.

The Display.

Presentation and Evaluation.


Brighter (Astronomy).

Shadows (Astronomy).

Building Blocks (Botany—Anatomy of Plants).

Reflectors (Botany—Anatomy of Plants).

Up and Down? (Botany—Behavior of Plants).

With and Without (Botany—Physiology of Plants).

Getting Started (Botany—Physiology of Plants).

Clipped (Botany—Physiology of Plants).

3-D (Zoology—Anatomy of Animals).

Face Forward (Zoology—Anatomy of Animals).

"Hearing" Without Ears (Zoology—Anatomy of Animals).

Oops! (Zoology—Behavior of Animals).

Juicy (Zoology—Physiology of Animals).

Break Out (Zoology—Physiology of Animals).

Super Spout (Zoology—Physiology of Animals).

Survivors (Ecology).

Spotted (Microbiology).

Jerky (Microbiology).

Easy Over (Geology).

Fiery Interior (Geology).

Combined (Geology—Rocks and Minerals).

Snap! (Geology—Minerals).

Changed (Geology—Rocks).

Splitters (Geology—Rocks).

Long Enough (Geology—Seismology).

Side-to-Side (Geology—Seismology).

Riser Geology (Volcanology).

Magma Flow (Geology—Volcanology).

Windy (Meteorology).

Stormy (Meteorology).

Wash Out (Oceanography).

Floaters (Oceanography).

Indicators (Paleontology).

How Old? (Paleontology).

Flexible (Engineering).

Windmill (Engineering).

I.D. (Chemistry).

Super Chains (Chemistry—Organic).

Stickers (Physics—Electricity).

Zap! (Physics—Electricity).

Hot Box (Physics—Energy).

Up and Down (Physics—Energy).

Launcher (Physics—Gravity).

Toys and Gravity (Physics—Gravity).

Lifter (Physics—Machines).

Uphill (Physics—Machines).

Attractive (Physics—Magnetism).

Back and Forth (Physics—Magnetism).

Unchanged (Mathematics).

Polys (Mathematics).




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Janice VanCleave's Guide to More of the Best Science Fair Projects 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
cinder1 More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a very good book at the time I was reading it. For my project.