Ideas For 2nd Grade



1. Seed Collection. How Plants Spread.

Goal of this 2nd grade science fair project is to study different ways that weeds use to spread around habitat.

Plants can not walk. So how they solve the problem of expansion into the new territory?

Some plants use their roots to spread and occupy more and more space. This is special case. The shoots that develop in such kind of reproduction are in fact the same original plant - they are genetically identical. However this strategy may result in interesting situation when very big territory will be consumed by single plant which will look like many individual plants unless you bother to check their root system or DNA. The biggest and oldest plant on the Earth is not the huge sequoias or ancient araukarias but Aspen colony in Utah which cover more then 43 hectares and claimed to be more then 80000 years old!

Most of the plants while occasionally using vegetative reproduction mainly use seeds to spread out. In the process of evolution plants developed many different techniques and strategies to do it efficiently.

They use

  • wind dispersal (dandelion, maple).
  • water dispersal (some palm trees, pond iris).
  • explosive dispersal (some plants from Pea Family).
  • birds that eat fruits and/or seeds.
  • animals that eat fruits or nuts.
  • animals hitchhiking also called Epizoochory.

Check this funny page featuring some mechanisms of seeds dispersal.In this project we are after the seeds that like to take ride. And you're going to play the role of the host animal.

Procedure:

  • Go to the nearest park or forest or bush.
  • Put old large socks over your shoes.
  • Go for a little walk.
  • Carefully collect seeds that attached to the socks (and likely to your pants) and put them in plastic bag or container.
  • At home have a close look at collected seeds. Use magnifying lens to see them better. Draw a pictures of the different seeds and try to figure what is different and what is common in the way they attach to their host.

You can extend this science project collecting and studying seeds that dispersed using different mechanisms. You can also try to germinate them and see what happens.



2. Bird Feeder.

Building a bird feeder and studying birds from your neighborhood can make excellent 2nd grade science fair project.

First of all let's check what kind of birds you may expect to see. Wikipedia has detailed bird lists for many regions and individual states. For example here is the list that cames up in the google search for "birds of California".

This lists can be pretty long. You probably would not like check every bird in it but it may help to learn more about birds that will come to eat from your feeder.

Even if you live in the urban area the amount of different species that will come may be quite big. Here is another valuable resource that will help you to find scientific names of your birds. It's called visual bird key.

How to make a feeder?

You can either buy one of the many fancy feeders available on the market or make one yourself. One of the simplest solutions is this pine cone bird feeder.

Check other feeder types. They'll need some time and builder skills. Second grade children will need adult assistance to build them.

So what to do when feeder is ready?

Set it up in the place which does not look dangerous from the bird's point of view. In other words it should not be close to the road, too far from the trees and open for view form any direction. Cats and dogs should not be able to reach the feeder.

Add food and clean up feeder every day or two. Birds may not come right away. It'll take some time to get used to new free food source. Make notes what time of day birds prefer to check the feeder (different species may prefer different time).

Week or two after feeder setup you should be able to start regular observations. For 2nd grade science fair project try to answer the following questions:

  • How many different species come to eat from your feeder?
  • Can you count the amount of birds of each species?
  • Are birds of different species eat together or they fight for food? Is there any species that "own" the feeder?
  • Try to remember individual birds.
  • Is there any specific direction the birds are coming from?
  • Try to found scientific names for your birds.
  • Try to make a photos of them.

Notes:

  • Birds are very active in the morning hours just after sunrise and before sunset. This probably will be your best observation hours.
  • It's a good idea to buy binocular to watch birds from greater distances.
  • Make sure the feeder is clean. Birds can share diseases through dirty feeder.
  • Make sure cats can not reach the feeder.



3. How much water do plants evaporate? (transpiration).

Believe it or not but plants do breath. They "exhale" carbon dioxide and oxygen (depending on lighting conditions). They use tiny little openings on the leaves called stomata that control the amount of gas exchange. They also loose water through them. This process called transpiration.

The goal of this science project is to find how much water plants evaporate depending on the type of plant and conditions of the environment. There are many ways you can perform transpiration experiment. You can check for example if there is a difference in amount of water that plant loose during the day or night, difference in amount of water plants loose in the sun or in the shadow, temperature, wetness of the soil etc.

For this easy experiment you'll need plastic bags of different sizes (look at the size of the tested plant), tape, and test tube or glass to collect water. Having camera to register the experiment results is always a good idea!

Experiment procedure:

  • Carefully put plastic bag over the few leaves or small branch (if you compare different plants make sure that size of leaves and their amount in the bag is similar otherwise experiment results will be invalid).
  • Wrap bag tight around the branch with the tape.
  • Decide the duration of the experiment (for example 24 hours)
  • Observe the bag every few hours.
  • At the end of experiment time carefully collect water from (each) bag in the test tube or small glass. This is the water lost by plant to the air.

Plants are great climate regulators! During the hot day they loose the water and cool down themselves and the place where they grow. Knowing the amount of water lost by the few leaves in certain amount of time it's easy to calculate how much water gets back in the atmosphere from the whole plant...



4. Dead Air - Making Carbon Dioxide.

The goal of this easy experiment is to show how carbon dioxide is different from the normal air. This experiment should be carried by adult or under adult supervision.

What you need :

  • Few small candles.
  • Matches.
  • Bowl.
  • Glass.
  • Soda.
  • White vinegar.

Procedure :

  • Put small candle in the bowl and lite it.
  • Pour vinegar in the glass (~1/4 of glass volume).
  • Add teaspoon of soda. Soda will promptly react with vinegar, reaction produces a lot of carbon dioxide as one of the reaction products.
  • Quickly "pour" carbon dioxide in the bowl.

What happens with the candle fire? Carbon dioxide is heavier then air and it does not support combustion, it will flow over the glass edge and down to the bottom of the bowl replacing the air and extinguishing the candle fire! The same principle is used in some fire extinguishers.

Simpler variant of the same easy experiment: lite the match and put it in the glass, keeping it above the surface of the vinegar.



5. Make Magnetic Field Visible.

This video tells how to make simple magnetic field visualizer at home.



6. Need more ideas?

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