Science fairs give children the chance to investigate how nature works.
Science fair projects give students the chance to demonstrate their knowledge of the scientific method by planning and executing their experiments. Projects in earth sciences deal with the age and structure of the earth through the fields of geology, seismology, geography and geomorphology. Students who take the time to examine a facet of earth science through detailed research, and who demonstrate their findings with an entertaining model, are sure to receive high marks and a chance at a blue ribbon.
The field of seismology studies the causes of earthquakes, and seismologists have long sought to develop an early warning system for major cities. A science project that examined fault lines around your community, and what the potential effects of a massive earthquake would be to your community, could be prize winning. Using Jell-O molds, construct a replica of your town or community. Google Earth can provide an aerial view of your city to use as a blueprint for your Jell-O model. Attach your completed city to a table with rollers. Moving the table back and forth will cause your Jell-O city to shake in a compelling demonstration of what would happen during an earthquake.
An earthquake’s vibrations displace soil, causing objects buried beneath the ground to sink further. Demonstrating how an earthquake displaces fossils buried underground explores the scientific phenomenon of vibration convection. Fill a fish tank that measures 79 inches by 39 inches by 39 inches with 19 inches of loam soil. Slowly pour 4 cups of water over the surface, ensuring that the soil remains even. Moving from left to right, place five cleaned chicken drumstick bones onto the soil at distances of 0, 19 inches, 39 inches, 59 inches and 78 inches from the left wall of the tank. Add more sand to the tank until a total of 29 inches is reached. Slowly pour 2 cups of water over the surface, then let the tank sit for an hour to give the soil a chance to settle. After an hour, shake the fish tank back and forth for 10 minutes, with the aid of an assistant, to simulate an earthquake. Carefully remove the sand, layer by layer, until you reach the first bone. Insert a long ruler to measure how far from the bottom of the tank the bone was and record the distance. Repeat the process until all five bones are found. The vibrations should cause the soil to act like a liquid, a process known as liquefaction, which causes landslides and undermines building foundations during an earthquake.
Soil erosion can damage roads and bridges, pollute waterways and make it difficult for farmers to grow crops. When land is overgrazed, or too much vegetation is cleared, sheet erosion can occur from excessive rainfall, causing fertile topsoil to run downhill. Demonstrating the effects of soil erosion on razed land is a simple and compelling experiment. Line two shoe boxes with plastic. From your backyard, dig out a piece of grass big enough to fill one of the boxes. Fill the other shoe box with loose loam soil. Set both boxes at a 45-degree angle to simulate the incline of a hill. Pour 1/2 gallon of water over each box using a watering can to simulate heavy rains. Record your observations. Without the roots of the grass to hold the soil together, the box filled with loose loam should experience greater displacement.
Tornado in a Bottle
While tornadoes don’t become as large as hurricanes, a tornado’s wind speed is the fastest and most dangerous of any phenomenon on Earth. At the center of every tornado is a spinning column of air known as the vortex. Creating your own vortex can help demonstrate the power contained in every tornado. For this project gather together two 2-liter soda bottles, duct tape, silicone caulk and a drill. Drill 1/2-inch holes in the center of each soda bottle cap. Place the caps together, then use the silicone to seal together the two holes. After allowing the caps to dry, wrap a piece of duct tape around the two caps to join them firmly together. Screw the caps back onto one bottle, then fill the remaining soda bottle 3/4 full of water. Finally, screw the empty bottle onto the bottle filled with water to complete your vortex apparatus. Swirl the water in the bottle, then turn the bottle upside down. This causes a vortex to form as the water drains from the bottle. By adding small pieces of confetti to the water, you can demonstrate what happens to objects that become caught in a tornado’s path.