Working on an investigatory project for a science fair, summer camp or just for fun gives students the chance to enjoy and learn about science away from school. Students must think about what interests them the most and consider how to solve problems or come up with new ideas about those interests. Broad subjects for investigatory projects include biology, chemistry, the environment, earth science, physics, astronomy and everyday life. Students must approach a problem and test an idea (hypothesis), research the topic, answer questions and think through the subject. The scope is limitless, and imagination and creativity are key.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Students gain insight into science by working on investigatory projects about what interests them the most. Broad topics for such projects include biology, chemistry, environmental projects, earth science, physics and astronomy, and projects related to everyday life.
Projects in Biology
Biology is the study of living things and covers plants, animals, fungi and microbes, as well as how they all interact. Students interested in this field could research how different kinds of lights attract moths, or they could test what kinds of microbes are in bodies of water nearby, such as streams, ponds or the ocean. Students could test different fertilizers on growing plants to see which ones make them grow taller, or they could test how different amounts of water affect plant growth rates. Students could explore why different birds’ songs are so distinct from each other (such as a duck’s quack and a crow’s caw). Another interesting biological subject is animal mimicry: how and why do some animals copy other animals or plants in appearance?
Demonstrating Concepts of Chemistry
Students interested in how chemicals interact can choose from a wide away of project ideas. Students could uncover the effects of chemicals on clothing stains by testing different laundry detergents, stain removers or even dish soap. A demonstration could be made on how easily different household substances dissolve in water, such as salts, sugar, spices and oils. Students could test what sports and soft drinks do to teeth. Different types of batteries could be tested to see which kind lasts the longest. A student could also test how and why living at a certain altitude affects baking.
Projects Related to the Environment
The interconnected nature of humans and the world around them are appropriate subjects for environmental projects. Students could study areas of their neighborhoods affected by light pollution and come up with solutions on how to reduce it. Testing how much water it takes to shower versus taking a tub bath can give insight into water usage and waste. Students could examine ways to reduce erosion by testing water flow on different types of ground such as sand or soil. Students can research what invasive species live in their area, and how these species threaten ecosystems. For renewable energy pursuits, students can demonstrate how solar panels and geothermal energy work.
Earth Science Projects
Studying the world around them helps students better understand how dynamic the Earth can be. Students can demonstrate how their location is affected by seasons and why, or track weather data such as temperature and humidity over a period of time and compare it to previous years’ data at the same time of year. For students interested in earthquakes, they can investigate earthquake risk for their region and see if the risk differed in the past. Students can make models of earthquake faults and plate tectonics.
Physics and Astronomy
On Earth and throughout the universe, physical forces affect everything and provide a trove of project possibilities. Students can compare how different metals conduct heat. Or perhaps a student could investigate how many times it takes to puncture a balloon before it pops, and why. Students can study thermodynamics by comparing the speed of cooling for different liquids. For students interested in space, they could research what types of stars reside in the galaxy and compare the life cycles of different stars. Students could try to predict how meteorite size affects crater size.
Investigatory Projects in Everyday Life
Students need look no further than their own homes to find several topics to research. Students can explore how effective their bathroom exhausts are at removing moisture, or perhaps they could demonstrate how different household foods or chemicals attract or repel pests. Students could track how different sounds in the home affect concentration, such as whether white noise or music helps aid in studying or blocking annoying sounds. Even the household plumbing could be studied to determine how water temperature affects sounds in the plumbing. Students could engage family members to investigate whether exercise, meditation or a combination of both reduces stress.
With so many choices for investigatory projects, students can pick from anything that catches their interest. Investing in their passions and working to solve problems gives students greater insight into their surroundings and prepares them for higher education.
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About the Author
J. Dianne Dotson is a science writer with a degree in zoology/ecology and evolutionary biology. She spent nine years working in laboratory and clinical research. A lifelong writer, Dianne is also a content manager and science fiction & fantasy novelist. Dianne features science as well as writing topics on her website, jdiannedotson.com.