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Getting Started On Your Own Experiment

Dec 27, 2007
A really good science project can be an exciting challenge to your ingenuity, imagination, intuition and ability. You can find a problem so tantalizing that you carry it around in your mind, letting it simmer through whatever else you happen to be doing and thinking.

When you least expect it, you may have a sudden flash of insight. You can hardly wait then to try out the new idea. If your hunch is right, the pieces fall into place with brilliant clarity, and all at once you know what may have made Archimedes leap from his bath to rush into the street, shouting "Eureka

When you have developed and repeatedly tested your hypothesis and have organized all of your material, you have the basis for writing a report of your work. You may want to file your paper for future reference, or you may want to present it at a seminar, science congress or Junior Academy of Sciences meeting. You may want to submit it as part of a Science Talent Search entry, use it as part of an exhibit at a science fair or enter it in the Science Achievement Awards competition.

The following is a typical example of a scientific report. This will give you the general shape of such a project which you may like to copy.

A Botany Project

A summary of a project entitled "Environmental Effects on Plants of the Sutter Buttes" follows. "The character of plant life is the result of environmental conditions due to soil, water, temperature, wind, sunlight, animals and the like. The result of a curiosity as to how plants responded to their environments was a study of the variation in plant growth on the Sutter Buttes, called the smallest mountain range in the world, located about sixty-five miles north-northwest of Sacramento, California.

Using South Butte (elevation 2117 ft.) as the field of study, I examined plants of the same species in their different environments. The mountain was divided into "base" (200-800 ft.), "middle" (800-1400 ft.) and "top" (1400-2100 ft.), as well as into "north slope" and "south slope." Some of the basic facts on the effects on plant distribution discovered were as follows:

Soil becomes progressively less fertile in the advance up the slope due to weathering by wind and water, which carry fertile topsoil downward and deposit it at the base.

Less water is to be found in the soil at higher altitudes, for moisture-holding factors are lacking.
The length of the root in proportion to the rest of the plant increases as the soil varies from moist fertile humus to dry clay or rocky soil.

Numerous rocks are an obstruction to plant growth, but also serve to hold soil in place.

Prevailing winter winds come from the south while dry summer breezes come from the north.

Plants on the south slope are of the small varieties except in sheltered ravines, where larger plants are able to grow.

Plants growing on the sheltered north slope are greater in variety, including larger shrubs, bushes and trees, which dominate the north slope and are scarce on the south.

The peak of the mountain "catches" low clouds and often becomes surrounded by fog.

Due to the sun's rays' hitting more directly on the south slope than on the north slope, the south side is generally warmer than the north.

Grazing animals help to fertilize the soil and are the cause of short grass on the slopes.

This study was explained in an exhibit by use of a scale model of the Buttes and of South Butte made of paper and flour-water paste; soil samples taken from various locations on South Butte; numerous plants collected from the slopes of South Butte, pressed and mounted; and written identifications and explanations. The total cost was about twenty-five dollars, while the value of the experience and knowledge gained is ten times the cost and more."

Now you have read about a project, you are ready to try your own.
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