It is important to ensure that we all have good clean water to drink that is not contaminated by heavy metals or chemicals. One common pollutant in a water supply is lead in old pipes or paints that can leach into the water and cause lead poisoning. There are different kits available for testing the presence of lead and other contaminants in water. Test your water supply, and also the water in some local ponds, lakes or streams. The same contaminants that can harm you can also harm wildlife. …
Our forests are a very important natural resource that need to be managed wisely. We use wood products for many different purposes: building materials, paper, cardboard, furniture, fuel, etc. How can we use wood products in a sustainable manner? You can do experiments that examine the growth time of different tree species to see which are good candidates for tree farming. Which types of lumber are most sustainable? You can also compare the effects of clear cutting vs. thinning a forested…
Visit your local landfill to collect dumping statistics by watching the types of trash people bring to the dump. Identify problem areas and types of waste that are commonly brought to the dump. Propose new uses for common landfill problems like tires, construction materials, plastics, appliances, and computer parts. Measure packaging materials of some common products. Invent ways to reduce the amount of packaging and increase the use of recyclable materials like popcorn or corn-based packing…
Make your own fertile soil using kitchen scraps, manure, leaves, grass clippings, and other compostable materials. Which materials make the best compost? How does the amount of nitrogen change the rate at which the compost forms? How does a 'hot' compost pile compare to a 'cold' compost pile, or how does traditional composting compare to worm composting, or vermiculture?
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Figure 1. Different composting methods yield different soils. In this picture, the soil on the left is…
Some plants use a lot of water, and some are very drought-tolerant. Drought-tolerant grasses are good for water conservation because they require less water to grow and stay green. How much less water do they need? Which types of grass are drought-tolerant? You can buy different types or brands of grass seed at your nursery that claim to be drought-tolerant. Grow them in a container and then starve for water after they are established. Which brands die out first? You can conduct a similar…
Mushrooms are not plants, but are fungi. Fungi include mushrooms, molds, and lichen. They do not produce seeds to reproduce like some plants. Fungi produce spores, like more primitive plants do. The spores of a mushroom are contained in the tiny folds around the stem underneath the mushroom cap. Different species of mushrooms have different types of spores, with different colors and different patterns of folds. You can make mushroom prints by removing the stem from a mushroom and placing the…
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Very Long (1+ months)
This project requires access to a place where mushrooms grow wildly (and you have permission to harvest them) or the purchase of a mushroom growing kit from an [# ProjectGuide Name="Advanced.ApprovedSuppliers" Value="HtmlAnchor" HtmlText="online vendor" #].
Low ($20 - $50)
Do not eat any mushrooms that you find growing in the wild.
Maybe somewhere in your home there's a long hallway or a stairway with a light that you can turn on from either end. It's a nice convenience, but did you ever wonder how it's wired up to work that way? The goal of this project is to build a similar circuit with switches, flashlight batteries and a flashlight bulb (obviously, household circuits are not safe to experiment with). You'll need to understand the difference between connections made in series and connections made in parallel in an…
You can take advantage of electrochemistry and make a battery to clean tarnished silverware without scrubbing. You should learn about how batteries work and study oxidation-reduction reactions so that you can explain how this process works. You'll need a pan large enough to hold the pieces of silverware, and deep enough to cover them in solution while boiling gently. Line the pan with aluminum foil, and place the silverware inside the pan, making sure that each piece touches the foil. Add…
You've seen that a magnet's attractive force can cause a small object (like a paper clip) to "jump" to the magnet. So a magnetic field can act through the air, but what about other materials? Here's an experiment you can do to find out. You'll need a strong bar magnet, a stack of books, a paper clip, some thread and tape. Place the bar magnet underneath the top book in your stack, so that it sticks out. Tie a piece of thread (as long as the stack of books is high) to a paper clip. You…
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