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Science Fair Project Ideas for When You Need 'EmBy Kim Kaplan
September 28, 2000
Just when students are starting to hunt for science fair topics, the Agricultural Research Service has made the search a little easier with a web site offering an agricultural slant to science projects--including a new set of project ideas.
Science for Kids is on the World Wide Web at www.ars.usda.gov/is/kids. Click on the yellow More button in the lower right corner to reach the science projects section, or go directly to www.ars.usda.gov/is/kids/fair/story.htm.
Agriculture is not usually one of the official science fair categories, but it fits into many of the traditional groupings. Biology, botany, chemistry, environmental sciences, nutrition--all cover areas that have room for science fair projects involving agriculture. The idea behind the site is to help students realize agriculture is much more than a cow in a field or seeds dropped in the dirt. Agriculture today can be as high-tech as a moon landing, and it is grounded in scientific research.
One of the most popular of the project ideas so far has been one questioning how much iron, an essential mineral, can be found in various breakfast cereals. This topic comes under the category Medicine and Health (Nutrition), and post-harvest food processing is certainly a part of agriculture. One Texas 5th grader used the idea and won top honors in her 4th-6th grade science fair in a field of 154 entries.
Among the new ideas just added are what happens if you fool seeds about which way is up, determining whether color can be used to protect plants from insect pests, and figuring out when apples are sweetest.
Science for Kids is primarily geared to ages 8-13. Its also available in Spanish as Ciencia Para Niños at www.ars.usda.gov/is/espanol/kids. Science fair project ideas on the Ciencia Para Niños page can be reached by clicking on the yellow button marked Un Poquito Más.
Also included in the Science for Kids site is a general how to do a science project section. It explains the basic steps of a research project and how research differs from a simple demonstration of a scientific principle.
To encourage students to follow their own curiosity, many of the projects are presented as questions. This allows different age groups to customize projects to an appropriate level of complexity. ARS is the USDA's chief research agency.