The challenge of a high school biology project can seem too hard, too easy, too boring, or too complicated. Just coming up with ideas can be a pain! But you don’t need to sweat the idea if you pick one of the following sure-fire easy projects. These can be done at home and don’t need a lot of work or materials. They also use observation-and-experimentation, and demonstrate important scientific principals.
Play with mold
Bread mold is one of the fastest growing and most easily started growths. Demonstrating what conditions are best (and worst) for bread mold growth is an easy and inexpensive project.
Take a piece of bread (any type will do), a cotton swab, and a plastic bag. Rub the cotton swab in some dust or dirt and then rub it on the bread. Put the bread in a plastic bag and put it in a warm place (on top of the refrigerator is a good spot) and forget about it for a few days.
When the bread starts turning green it means mold has started growing. This is your “started culture”, which is important to show you’re growing the same mold on every one of your experiments. Touch the green part with a cotton swab, then touch a fresh slice of bread with the swab (this transfers some mold to the bread, and is called “inoculating”). Inoculate each slice in the loaf, marking the inoculated side with a piece of tape or a small sticker.
Put each slice in a plastic bag and put them in different places around the house, some in dark places, some in light ones, some that get different amounts of light and dark. Put some in warm places, some in cold, and some in places that get both.
Make a chart of where each piece was placed, and the light/dark and warm/cold conditions. Check each sample daily and take pictures or make drawings of the mold growth. End the experiment when one of the slices is completely covered with mold.
Rank the mold growth from fastest to slowest, and compare the conditions. Decide which conditions are the best to keep your bread from getting moldy, and suggest the best ways to store bread.
Sprout some seeds
The sprouting of seeds is called “germination”. Germination is important to farmers, gardeners, and ecological scientists because it shows if the growing environment is healthy or unhealthy for the plant. Germination experiments are also the quickest and easiest biology projects you can do.
Get some plant seeds (all for the same plant… don’t mix plants and don’t use grass seed because different types might be mixed together). Also gather a bunch of small containers (single-server yogurt cups are great), several larger containers like water bottles, and get a bag of potting soil.
Wash the containers in the dishwasher or by hand with hot water and dishwashing liquid, rinse thoroughly, and then poke several holes in the bottom for drainage. Put the potting soil in a large bowl and microwave it for five minutes, stir, then microwave for another five. This will make sure your containers and soil have no bacteria or molds that will affect the experiment. Cover the containers and soil and let them cool.
Put about 4 tablespoons of soil into each cup and gently tap down and level. Poke 4 holes the depth of a pencil eraser in the soil in each cup, and put one seed in each. Cover loosely with soil.
Now decide what kind of experiment you want to do. You can use vinegar to check out what acidity does to germination, baking soda to see what bases will do, salt to see the effect of salinity (saltiness), or almost any other substance.
Set out the cups together in the same warm, sunny spot, sitting on a tray that will hold any drainage. Take the water bottles and mix water with different amounts of the substance you’re testing. For the first cup, mix a bottle with very little of the substance. Make the next one a bit stronger, and the next even stronger. Note how much you put in each bottle, number the bottle, and put the same number on the container you’ll water with it.
Every day take a dropper and put 4-5 drops from the #1 bottle into the# 1 container, from the #2 bottle into the #2 container, etc. Do this for two weeks or until all the seeds sprout (some of them probably won’t).
Shake the sprouts out of the soil and measure them, and rank them by height and group number. Use your chart to figure out how much of the test substance can help or hurt a plant’s germination.
Roots and gravity
Plant roots seem to sense which way is down, and will grow that way whenever possible. This seems obvious, but what happens when you change “down”?
Take a few zip-lock baggies and pack them with potting soil. Put a dry lima bean in each, right next to the plastic where you can see it. Put the baggies in a sunny, warm place (window sills are good) and wait for the beans to sprout.
Once they sprout, turn the baggies around. Put some on their left side, some one their right, some face down, and some face up. If you’re doing the experiment with a lot of seeds (more seeds-in-baggies means a larger “sample size”), crack the zip-lock a bit and put in a straw to allow air into the bag.
Take pictures or draw the root growth and how it changes with the root’s growth. Note differences based on position and whether air was allowed or not. Describe what seems to be the best and worst up-and-down, air-or-no-air situation for growth.
How to make your report
Doing the experiments is only a small part of a good science project. To get a good grade you need to do basic background research to show you know what the mold or seed is doing, and it’s a good idea to put this stuff right up front. Tell what you learned before describing the experiment, and then describe what you expected to see.
Then describe the experiment and what you did to make sure other things (like molds, bacteria, or other things that might screw things up) were avoided. The more you do on this stage, the better your grade.
Then tell what happened. Was it what you expected? That’s fine. Was it different? Then say why. Did something excite you because it might be useful? Talk about it.
Science projects aren’t just homework. They can be fun, your parents can help, and sometimes they can help you find the job or career you want when you graduate. Have some fun with the project, and use it to learn and grow.