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Simple Elementary Science Project

Oct 09, 2010 | By Harvey Craft

Parents often get caught up in science fair projects and do more than the child. Here's a science project that is so easy a child can do it. Parents can simply watch. (Yay!)

The Internet abounds with science project ideas, but not all of them are easily done and many don't involve the scientific method of investigation that teachers want. The requirements for the following project are minimal and it produces consistently reliable results.

Elementary science project materialsScience Project Materials Needed

  • Four tomato sauce cans with labels removed – 4 to 5 ounce capacity
  • Four strips of construction paper long enough to wrap once around the can and as wide as the cans are tall; one strip of each of the following colors: red, yellow, white, and black
  • Additional construction paper will be needed to make a bar graph
  • One three-panel "project poster"
  • Additional scraps of construction paper of the colors above large enough to cover can tops – approximately 4 X 4 inches
  • A basic air temperature thermometer
  • Small pitcher or container for water
  • Adhesive tape
  • Twelve ounces of water

A Science Project Procedure a Child Can Do

This project requires a clear, sunny day. It is intended to demonstrate that different colors will absorb different amounts of heat from the sun. Air temperature above fifty degrees fahrenheit are best. If it's too cold outside, good results can be obtained inside where bright, unobstructed sunlight shines in. 

The steps are as follows:

  1. Wash the cans and remove the labels completely.
  2. Put at least twelve ounces of water into the pitcher and place it outside in the shade for at least thirty minutes.
  3. Wrap each can in a different color of construction paper. Make a small "hat" for each with a color matching each can by folding the corners of the construction paper squares down.
  4. The cans should be placed in full sun between noon and 2:00pm for thirty minutes. Be sure that the cans are placed a few inches apart and do not cast a shadow on each other. It is recommended that a piece of Styrofoam or cardboard be placed beneath the cans to insulate them from the temperature or the ground, steps, or whatever they are placed on.
  5. Put three ounces of water in each can, being careful not to wet the paper, take the temperature of each and record it. At this point, the water in all cans should be the same temperature.
  6. Leave the cans with their "hats" on in direct sunlight for twenty minutes and take the temperature of each a second time. Record the temperature next to the beginning temperature.
  7. Construct a bar graph for each can by cutting out strips of construction paper to match the colors of the cans. There should be a strip for beginning and final temperatures for each can. Overlap them slightly on the graph. The graph should be labeled in degrees of actual temperatures from the temperature on the vertical axis. For example, if the temperature at the beginning is 52 degrees for the cans, start the graph numbers at 45 to 50 degrees and continue the number for about five degrees past the maximum temperature of the warmest can.
  8. No label will be required across the vertical axis, as the colors of the bars will be self explanatory.

The Scientific MethodUsing the Scientific Method of Investigation

The scientific method of investigation is a specific procedure that scientists use to assure the consistent design of experiments, and permit replication by other scientists. The method can become somewhat complex for students in middle and high school as the demands of science become increasingly abstract. But for elementary students it is usually enough for them to state a hypothesis, list materials, describe the procedure, record the results, and draw a conclusion based on the results.

The hypothesis should be a stated as an "If…then" statement. In the experiment above the hypothesis might be stated as, "If four cans containing three ounces of water each covered with a different color of construction paper – red, yellow, red, and black  – are placed in direct sunlight, then the red one will warm up the most."

The prediction that the red can will collect the most heat is not necessarily correct. Likewise, the student should not be penalized for making an incorrect prediction. The important thing is to make a prediction as part of the hypothesis. Scientists make lots of incorrect guesses, but things are learned through incorrect predictions as well as correct ones.

An Attractive Display of the Project is Essential

Science project display templateFor display purposes name the project – for example, "Does Color Affect Heat Absorption?" Parents have an option of taking pictures of the child conducting the experiment and pasting those to the poster. Labels should identify the different steps in order and be sure the hypothesis and conclusion are included. Place the cans in front for the panel for a nice touch. Done!

Parents don't have to agonize over hours of helping a child plan and conduct an experiment. Simple ideas can often demonstrate important scientific principles. Children should have science projects that are age-appropriate. The one described above is suitable across all elementary grades and perhaps into middle school with some modification addressing variables.

About the author:
Harvey Craft
 is a retired educator and former principal, with extensive experience in teaching grades six through to twelve. He is NBPTS certified in Adolescent Science and now spends his time in educational research, consulting, and freelance writing.
Click here to contact or read more articles by Harvey Craft.

Tags : science, fair, project, elementary, children, kids

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