Scientists are rarely able
to perform an experiment and obtain meaningful results within a time frame of
one or two class periods. The following investigations require an extended
period of time. In performing these projects, students should have the opportunity
to observe change, gather data, record information, and make conclusions about
the world around them. Some students may use this list of viable investigations
to generate their own project ideas, but the teacher should approve all
projects before they are conducted. Although library research is an important
aspect of nearly any scientific inquiry, students are strongly encouraged to
make the gathering and analysis their own observations and data the primary
emphasis of their long-term projects.
1. Establish communication
that will enable you to measure the size of the Earth through a computer link
with a number of other schools.
2. Measure the quantity of
air-borne particulate pollution at a number of locations. Correlation of your
data with wind directions and time of year may also be appropriate. This is a
good opportunity to show your skills in drawing isolines.
3. Make a contour map of
the area around your home. (You may want to construct your own surveying
instruments.) Show the shape of the land, vegetation, and roads, buildings and
other man made features.
4. Set up a rock and
mineral exchange with a friend in a different geological area. Classify your
samples and tell about how they formed. Your teacher can help you in
identifying the samples.
5. Investigate the
latitude, longitude and depths of earthquake foci obtained from current data.
Students can place pins on a map to identify geologically active zones of the
6. Document changes in a
portion of a shoreline or stream bank for several months. Correlate changes
with weather conditions, storms, human activities, etc.
7. Measure and record the
rate of erosion of a hill slope, road-cut, or another unstable land feature.
Erosion may be correlated with rainfall, human activity, etc.
8. Sample sediments being
deposited in the same place in an active stream or lake for several months.
Correlate your data with changes in the speed of the water.
9. Use rock samples,
fossils, photographs and other resources to document the local geologic
10. Take weather readings
daily. Correlate temperature, barometric pressure, and rainfall.
11. Construct a solar
energy collector. Demonstrate how much energy you can collect, or use the
energy for some useful purpose, such as cooking something or heating water.
Plan a live demonstration for your teacher.
12. Measure stream
discharge daily or weekly. Correlate changes with rainfall or other factors.
13. Relate the temperature
of the air to the temperature one meter underground. You will need to dig a
hole one meter deep and bury a plastic tube in the hole. Be sure to keep the
tube plugged so that air cannot circulate within the tube when you are not
14. Use a thermometer to
record the air and water temperatures in a pond or stream. Investigate the
relationships between these temperatures on a daily cycle, as well as long term
data for several months.
15. Measure the maximum
height of the tides at a nearby location for a month. Graph this change and
correlate it with the relative positions of the Earth, sun and moon.
16. Observe and record the
exact position of sunrise or sunset weekly for several months. Relate these
changing positions to Earth-Sun motions.
17. Construct a scale
model of the solar system in three dimensions. You may also want to include appropriate
information about each of the planets. Be sure that your model is to specified scale(s).
18. Measure the acidity of
rainfall in different weather systems. Correlate changes to changes in wind
direction and other factors. Or, measure the acidity of local ponds.
19. Prepare a display to
highlight a local pollution problem. Your display could include photographs,
newspaper reports, and samples of pollution. The display should be presented in
a public area. You should suggest reasonable ways of dealing with this problem.
20. Organize a campaign to
help to alleviate a local pollution problem. Your report should tell about
what you did, and how it helped to solve this problem.
21. Formulate and justify
your own opinion about a controversial current issue such as the safety of
nuclear power, or methods of waste disposal. Be sure to look at alternate sides
of the issue. You need not agree with arguments on the other side, but you
should consider their merit.
22. Utilize a computer
application to do something useful in the fields of the Earth sciences.
Tips for Student Projects:
A. Keep the focus narrow.
Do something small, but do it very well. Stress quality rather than quantity. A
report need not be long to be excellent.
B. The project should
involve doing science, not just writing about science. Try to gather original
documentation and/or data.
C. New technology will
allow the use of equipment and media that were not available in the past. Word
processors, computers, and still or video cameras can add to the value of your
D. Get an early start.
When contacting people or writing for information, allow plenty of time for
responses. Some projects will require data collected over a number of months.