If your student is taking Conceptual Physics, Biology, Earth Science, AP Biology, AP Environmental Science or AP Physics, they will be required to complete a science project. Participation in the science fair Jan. 23, 2016, is required for Honors Biology and the AP Science classes. Conceptual Physics, Biology, and Earth Science students are not required to participate in the science fair, but are required to complete a science project that they will present in class. Any student at St. Pius is welcome to participate in the science fair if they want to. Here are some tips on how to do a science project.
Picking the topic is important, because it should be interesting to the student, practical to accomplish, and the data gathered should be relevant and useful to others. The core of a good project is measurement, so you should be able to identify what is going to be measured, with what measuring device, and in what units. For example, “early morning temperatures will be measured with a thermometer in degrees Celsius”. If you can do this, you should have the basis of a good project.
Once a topic has been picked, the teacher will require some library research. Requirements on this vary by teacher, but the objective is for the student to become more knowledgeable in the area of science related to the topic.
An experiment plan includes a title, purpose (usually stated as a question), materials list, a procedure (a numbered list of experimental steps in the order they are done), and a blank data table indicating what data is to be collected. If an experiment does not have a data table for measurements, it is likely not a high school level project.
A hypothesis is an “If…,then…,because….”statement. “If early morning temperatures are measured from September to December, then temperatures will decrease, because the season is changing from autumn to winter.” The hypothesis is an educated guess or a prediction about what the results of the experiment will be, and is written prior to experimentation.
As the experiment is conducted, data should be consistently collected and written down in the blank data table. When data collection is complete, the student should be able to graph the results, and state the results in a paragraph. Results are the facts as collected in the data table, and therefore results should be numbers with units (for example temperatures in degrees Celsius).
After the results are determined, conclusions can be drawn. Conclusions are interpretations based on the results. For example, was the hypothesis right or wrong? Results from the actual experiment must be used to justify any interpretations that are made.
The last step is to publish the experimental findings. Your student will prepare a presentation for the classroom or the science fair. This presentation will outline the entire project from title to conclusions.
This whole process from picking the topic to drawing conclusions and publishing is called the scientific method, and is the method followed by research scientists in academia and industry. Teachers are available to help with science project problems, so please ask. The St. Pius X High School Science Fair is January 23, 2016. Hope to see you there!