Bacteria is all around, even if we don't like to think about it. There are a lot of fun and easy science experiments you can do with bacteria. Most of these experiments use household items and a few other inexpensive pieces of equipment, so they are perfect for a science fair experiment.
Setting Up an Experiment about Bacteria
For a basic experiment about bacteria, you will need petri dishes, agar (a gelatinous substance from red algae) and a sterile swab. Agar is important to the experiment, because it has nutrients for the bacteria, and it provides a stable place for the bacteria to grow. Most bacteria will grow well if you use a nutrient such as agar. You will also need bacteria, which is easy to find. You can use a swab in the inside of your mouth or on your skin. If you have pets, you can swab their skin, or you can even use the bathroom for bacteria! You might use your brother's shoes or your sister's desk. Some companies sell live cultures if you want to study a certain type of bacteria. You should always have a parent, teacher or other adult help you when you are studying bacteria. Also, make sure to wash your hands well after you handle your science projects. Finally, you will need the material you are testing, such as antibacterial soap or household cleaners. When you are setting up an experiment, you will need at least two dishes--one for your control and one for your test. In general, the control petri dish is where the bacteria grows under normal circumstances. In a test dish, you are experimenting to see if a certain product works as an antibacterial, for example. Place both dishes in the same location, preferably in the dark where bacteria grows better. After you have waited several days, you should see bacteria growing (or not!) in the dishes. The bacteria will look like round dots close together--these are bacteria colonies. You can see these without a microscope or magnifying glass, but if you have one, it will help you examine your results closer.
Experiments Testing Products that Get Rid of Bacteria
One type of easy bacteria science project you can do is testing products against each other to see which ones get rid of more bacteria. With these tests, you can use bacteria from a kitchen counter, for example, and test which cleaning solutions work best against bacteria. Another idea is to test different mouthwashes to see which products get rid of bacteria in your mouth. Many of these claim to be antibacterial. The same is true for hand soap. You can test different soaps and see which one kills the bacteria on your hands better than the others. On a similar theme, you can also test stain removers. Which stain removers work best against stains on clothes? What about on carpets or furniture? You can use sensitivity squares soaked in the product that you want to test. Once you put the bacteria in the agar in the petri dish, then you can add the sensitivity square to the petri dish. Again you will be able to see the bacteria colonies that grow with the naked eye, but you can use a microscope or even a magnifying glass to examine the colonies further. If you cannot find much bacteria growth in a petri dish or around a sensitivity square, then the antibacterial product is working.
Experiments Testing Where Bacteria Grows
The results of these experiments about testing where bacteria grows may surprise you. As a science project, you can test where bacteria is growing in your home. For example, is there bacteria growing in your shoes? Is there more in your tennis shoes or in your dress shoes? Another place where we don't like to think about bacteria lurking is in a water bottle. At many schools, students use water bottles throughout the day, especially in warm months. How often do these need to be taken home and washed? How soon is bacteria growing in water bottles? Does it matter if it is made of plastic or glass? These are all questions you can answer when doing a science experiment about bacteria in water bottles.
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