By Science World British Columbia
Prior to holding a STEAM EXPO, consider doing a whole class demonstration or project. During this activity, the teacher/coordinator can emphasize different aspects of the processes and skills of science and integrate grade-appropriate vocabulary. The entire process can be written up as a report. For younger grades, consider focusing on a whole class ‘study’, demonstration, or a simple experiment. In later grades, add the option of innovation and more complex experiments with variables, as they become more comfortable with the processes of scientific methods.
What’s the difference?
Build a two or three-dimensional model showing the different parts of a battery: carbon rod, metal cap, chemicals (zinc, magnesium, etc.). Label and or explain each of the parts and how they function.
Show how a battery can light a bulb; show what size of the battery is best for powering certain items. Build a battery using a lemon or different kinds of fruits/vegetables. Study: Include a model (as above), an explanation of the history of batteries, the different kinds of batteries we use and why (AAA to D cells to rechargeable), and how to dispose of batteries.
Build a battery using a lemon or different kinds of fruits/ vegetables.
Compare three different brands of batteries to determine which one lasts the longest. For a more sophisticated experiment, develop a hypothesis such as zinc oxide batteries last longer than nickel-cadmium batteries because of the duration of the chemical reactions. Below are some examples of activities you can adapt to your age group. Visit www.scienceworld.ca/sciencefairs to find more ideas for demonstrations. Experiment: Which is the best battery? Test different brands of batteries to determine which one lasts the longest. Have the students bring in battery-operated toys. Design data sheets, use timing devices, set up your experiment, make predictions and collect the data! Integrate appropriate vocabulary and discuss the results including what you might do differently next time.
Design a 100 penny boat Using aluminum foil, students design a boat that can hold the most pennies before sinking. Hand out the materials, design the boat, build it, compare models and predict which one is the best. Launch the boats in a container of water and drop pennies in one by one with the whole class counting. Determine the best design and discuss why. Study: What is a balanced diet? Brainstorm a ‘balanced diet’ with the class and organize the main ideas. Assign each group an idea to research, create a written document and/or a model and present it to the class.
Keeping a Journal
This may be a science-specific journal or part of a regular learning journal. Any time students think about or do any work related to their science project, have them start a new entry, write the date and write it down. Include pictures, brainstorms, graphic organizers, research keywords, research logs, results, photographs, amount of time spent, and so on. If you have the technology to support it, consider doing an electronic journal including photos and videos. A journal can also be an evaluation as a part of the process.
Choosing a Topic
Topics could relate to themes that are studied in class or to topics that interest the students. To assist students in exploring their own interests:
• Refer to newspapers and magazines for current topics;
• Investigate a topic related to your region (example: pollution, transportation, forestry, etc.);
• Build on previous experiences or topics;
• Create a ‘topic chart’ at the beginning of the year and record students’ questions/ideas on a regular basis;
• Browse the internet. Visit the links from www.scienceworld/science fairs;
• Use a graphic organizer to get students brainstorming their ideas. Take the next step and have students customize their ideas to a project type.
The Scientific Method
The Scientific Method is a systematic process for observing and understanding the world. We all use the scientific method to solve everyday problems. For example, if the TV won’t go on, you might guess what the problem might be (the remote’s batteries are dead), then experiment to find out if you’re right (change the batteries, does it work now?).
Scientists use a variety of techniques and methods. The step-by-step process outlined here is a good model to follow that will give students more accurate data and results, and help them record your procedure in a way that anyone in the world can follow. Students may try several different methods before deciding on one they will use for their projects. Remind students to capture any initial ideas in their journals.
The italicized text supports the explanations and is part of a project called:
A Comparison of Two Batteries.
Observation: Think of something you observed, that you are curious about. Find out as much as possible about that topic. I observed that some batteries seem to last longer than others.
Question: Create a question from your initial observation and preliminary research. Do Alpha batteries last longer than Beta batteries?
Purpose: Begins with a ‘To’ statement. To determine if Alpha batteries last longer than Beta batteries.
Hypothesis: This is a more sophisticated concept that may be introduced in Grade 7. It is a possible explanation for something that is observed, telling us why something happened thus allowing us to make predictions in other similar situations. Because the emphasis of non-competitive science fairs is about the process and experience (as opposed to the outcome), including a hypothesis can be optional. That’s right, throw the hypothesis out if it means avoiding getting hung up on semantics! The concept of “prediction” is much easier for students to grasp and challenges them to think ahead. In this example, a hypothesis may be, “Different batteries last varying amounts of time because of the amount of chemicals found inside.” A prediction may be, “Alpha batteries last longer than Beta batteries.” Either way, it is accepted or rejected based on the results of the experiment. As long as the experimental design is sound, either result is valid.
Use your creativity and sense of ‘fair’ testing for your experimental design – there is more than one way to test your hypothesis! Whatever your design, write it in a way that anyone, anywhere can follow the directions and do exactly the same experiment.
• 5 new Alpha batteries, type AA; 5 new Beta batteries, type AA
• One new tail-wagging doggie toy
• One timer
1. Place one Alpha battery into the toy.
2. Start the timer and the toy at the same time.
3. Record the amount of time elapsed before the battery dies (example: the toy stops working).
4. Record data in the table.
5. Repeat steps 1–4 for the remaining batteries. You may wish to include pictures or photographs of the experiment on your display.
After the experiment, review the results and determine whether or not they support or refute your hypothesis. Perhaps you need to design a new procedure if you can’t draw a confident conclusion based on your results. Do you need to modify the experimental design? What would you change? Did you do enough trials? What is the optimal sample size for this experiment?
Do the data support or refute your hypothesis? In this case, they support your hypothesis. Alpha batteries last longer than Beta batteries, by 17.2 minutes on average. Discuss possible sources of experimental error here. Perhaps the batteries were different ‘ages’ or had different amounts of chemicals. Could you measure their energy output prior to the experiment? Perhaps the toy had an influence on the outcome. What would you do differently next time?
Investigate how your experiment and results relate to the real world. Keep notes in your journal. This could be part of your presentation.
Be sure to record books, websites, or other sources of information that you used during your research.
Scientists share their findings via research papers (written report) and presentations (science project).