Science fairs provide a wonderful opportunity for kids to learn about the scientific process, in a hands-on and exciting way. Each year students come together, along with their families, to view and discuss a variety of science experiments.
It’s always interesting to see the wide range of science projects that children of all ages share, and to witness the learning that takes place as they explore their own topic, as well as the topics of their peers.
My 10 year old recently completed the following project for his 5th grade science fair. We decided to share a detailed explanation of the steps he took, in an effort to help any of you who might need some inspiration for your own science fair.
Here is the full science fair display board when it was finished:
Scientific Method Steps
Step 1: Question
My son chose a question that he wanted to explore further – Why do some foods mold faster than others?
Step 2: Research
We spent quite a bit of time at the library and online, seeking answers as to why certain foods might mold faster than others, and defined what exactly mold is.
Step 3: Form Hypothesis
Using his own previous knowledge, as well as the information gathered from our research, my son came up with the following hypothesis: Natural foods will mold faster than processed foods.
Step 4: List Materials
We made a list of the materials needed, and gathered the necessary supplies.
For this experiment, we used 2 types of fresh fruit (blueberries and strawberries), 2 different breads (white bread and a whole wheat hamburger bun), 2 types of vegetables (frozen corn and fresh carrots), and 2 processed snacks (potato chips and licorice).
Each of the foods was placed in a clear plastic bag to begin the experiment.
Step 5: Procedure
My son listed the detailed steps of the experiment:
- Place food in clear plastic bags
- Place plastic bags on a tray
- Place tray in a moist environment
- Observe and record changes
- Check food daily for 14 days
- Document your findings
Step 6: Conduct Experiment
After placing each of the foods in a clear plastic bag, he observed and documented the changes for 2 weeks (14 days).
At the end of the experiment, I helped Malik (age 10) transfer the food to small bowls in order to get a better look at the mold growth. Then, we took photos to help document the final results.
Blueberries, strawberries, corn, and carrots after 2 weeks inside of plastic bags at room temperature:
White bread, hamburger bun, licorice, and potato chips after 2 weeks inside of plastic bags at room temperature:
Step 7: Analyze Results
It was quite obvious that the natural foods were moldier than the processed foods. After observing the results of the experiment and reviewing data, we created a graph depicting how much mold was on each type of food.
Step 8: Make Conclusions
Based on data collected, it was time to answer the original question posed at the beginning of the experiment: Why do some foods mold faster than others?
Now was the time to decide whether or not the original hypothesis was correct. We also discussed ways to improve the experiment.
Here is the conclusion that Malik (age 10) wrote:
My hypothesis was supported because at the conclusion of my experiment all of the natural foods had mold and the processed foods did not.
The processed foods have preservatives that make it harder to grow mold on them, unlike the natural foods that have no preservatives, and mold a lot faster.
Mold needs moisture and space to grow. For example, the moisture in the blueberries and strawberries, as well as the pockets of air in the bread, helped create the most mold in my experiment.
To improve this experiment, I would have a wider variety of foods and place them in different environments such as a bathroom, basement, kitchen counter, or attic.
The final result, ready to display at the science fair looked like this:
The left side of the board contained the question, hypothesis, and research information:
The right side of the board contained the results (via photos) and conclusion:
The center of the board contained the title, materials, procedure, and data graph:
Overall, the science fair was a big success. This experiment was interesting and educational, without being too time consuming or difficult.
This was my son’s first time presenting a project in front of his peers, and he did a fantastic job of maintaining his composure and feeling confident in his quality of work. Such a great way to end his time in elementary school, and prepare for the projects and presentations that will be a part of middle school next year.
Click on the website links below to find more science fair project ideas for kids of all ages and grade levels:
Interested in more science experiments and project ideas? Be sure to check out our Science Activities board on Pinterest.