A HEAD START ON THE SCIENCE FAIR THIS YEAR
to parental guidance, most credit for today's environmental awareness
among young people goes to schoolteachers. For much of the year, they
spend almost as many waking hours with children as their parents do.
One of their teaching tools is science fairs.
two projects are ones that can be successfully completed and be educational
for the student. I'm sure because when I have suggested these projects
before, students have used one or the other in a science fair. I won't
guarantee that either will win a science fair in the computer technology
age, but both relate to international environmental issues: the fossil
fuel crisis and biodiversity.
fuel hypothesis: Shoppers driving into a mall would save both time and
energy by selecting the closest readily available parking slot when
they enter the parking lot rather than driving around looking or waiting
for one closer to the building.
is that both gas and time are wasted by people driving around waiting
for a place near the store of their choice, while passing up open slots
a few spaces farther away. The supposition is that the odds favor getting
into the store faster by taking the first spot that is available and
walking a few extra feet, instead of searching for that prime spot.
and questions: Stand in front of a mall or big grocery store during
a busy time as cars come in. Use a stopwatch to time how long it takes
drivers to park and how long it takes them to get to the front door.
Do drivers who take a spot immediately, even though it is near the back,
on average actually get to the front door faster, perhaps even while
the searchers are still driving around? If it turns out to be true that
those selecting the first spots reach the front door sooner, they not
only save time but use less gas and get more exercise. In a relatively
short time, a student can get several dozen data points, support or
refute a hypothesis and produce a science fair project that tells people
something useful. Embellish the project by calculating how much extra
gas the searchers use.
hypothesis: Plants and animals will live on any available space if given
enough time, even on a vertical wall.
for this one is based on a book called "Ecology of Walls"
written by Arnold Darlington 34 years ago. In his book he declares that
walls comprise more than 10 percent of the area habitable by plants
and animals in a city. Walls are all around us, providing habitats for
many species. Included would be garden walls, the sides of houses and
sheds, even the sides of a big oak tree, which is just a natural wall.
and questions: Sample a variety of walls and record what lives on them.
What variables affect the composition of species and the success of
different kinds of organisms? Are walls with horizontal sections that
create shelf space more likely to collect dirt and debris where seeds
can root? Does compass direction matter for some species? For example,
does moss grow mostly on the shady side of a wall? Do the wall's material
and composition have a major influence on what lives on a particular
wall? Does the age of the wall influence the vegetative character? What
lives on the wall? Algae, moss and lichens? Do vines and even small
plants grow on crumbling walls? How about animals like lizards, treefrogs,
spiders, millipedes and a variety of insects?
project could be completed in two weeks and could be carried out in
hot weather or cold. Imagine the data a student could accumulate to
make the point that driving around looking for parking places is wasteful
or to demonstrate that walls are important to the biodiversity of an
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