Investigatory Projects in Science

Hands-on learning is the best kind of learning. It fosters thinking skills and a better understanding of the activity being done. The discoveries made will stay in a child's mind better than any "book knowledge" learned. These elementary student investigatory projects will spark an interest in science that can carry a student throughout an entire lifetime.

1. Sugar Content In Processed Foods

• Sugar makes foods taste sweet, but too much can cause obesity and tooth decay, and can block the body's use of certain vitamins. On the label of ingredients on products, the word "sugar" may not appear, yet the product could be loaded with sugar, since sugar comes in different forms, including sucrose, glucose (dextrose), fructose (found in fruits), lactose (found in milk) and maltose.

Make a chart comparing a variety of cereals by the number of calories per serving and the amount of sugar (and related forms of sugar) in the ingredients. You may be surprised to discover that some cereals that are not "sugar coated" still have a high sugar content.

Home Power Consumption

• Electric power is measured in units called watts. You're familiar with the term as it applies to how much electricity light bulbs use--they're rated as 40-watt, 60-watt, 75-watt and so on. One kilowatt is equal to 1,000 watts. The electric meter on your home records the amount of kilowatts used, and once a month the utility company reads the numbers on the meter and subtracts the reading from last month, which yields the number of kilowatts consumed that month. This is reflected on your bill.

Determine your home's average daily power consumption in kilowatts by recording the number on the electric meter every morning and subtracting it from the previous day's reading. At the end of 30 days, subtract the reading on day one from the reading on day 30, and divide by 30 to find the average daily power use. Looking at your daily data, see if there are certain days when electrical usage was highest, and try to determine what caused this increase.

Newton's Laws of Motion

• English scientist Sir Isaac Newton developed his laws of motion in the 1600s. His first law of motion states that an object at rest tends to say at rest, and an object in motion tends to stay in motion. This can be simply demonstrated by placing a playing card over a drinking cup and laying a coin on top of the card directly over the mouth of the cup. Give the edge of the card a quick, hard blow with your finger or a pencil. The blow will knock the card off the cup, but the coin, which is at rest, will tend to stay at rest and will drop down into the cup once the card is gone.

Effect of Trees on Temperature

• Sitting under the shade of a big tree on a hot summer's day and relaxing with a good book can be delightful. Yet taking a few steps out of the shade and into the sunlight can be most uncomfortable.

On a hot, sunny day, find a large tree. Hold a thermometer about five feet in the air in the shade of the tree. After two or three minutes, record the temperature. Now hold the thermometer one foot from the ground, and record the temperature. Similarly, step out of the shade and into full sunlight, and record the temperature at both levels. Use a small piece of cardboard to block the direct sunlight from hitting the thermometer's bulb, which could heat it up and give a false reading higher than the actual air temperature.

Determine the difference in temperatures from the sun to the shade. Test other trees in your area and see if the results are similar. You can see why landscape designs often incorporate planting deciduous trees on the south side of buildings to help cool them during the summer.

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• Photo Credit brightly colored science test tubes image by Steve Johnson from Fotolia.com