Science fairs seem minor to many people, they feel it is just a way to allow students to toy with the basics of science, but they are much more valuable. They stimulate the imagination, demonstrate basic principles and show the students that science can be fun, interesting, and in many cases useful. And one useful Science Fair project is investigating the effects of plastic on the environment.
Why this topic and what can the student learn? It is something practical and can be applied. There is, and has been for a long time, move to find natural solutions to problems facing the world today, but more and more people still use plastic. What effect will plastic have on the future of the planet? This project lets the student learn how science can be used to solve issues that face the world today.
One thing the student must first find out is what is plastic and are there different types. How are the different types made, is it a toxic process? What are the types used for and are some types highly toxic while others are safe? Science is all about learning about things and finding ways to control or use them; science fair projects are the same.
Next the student can do a test to see how long the different types of plastic last and what degrades them. Some types are destroyed by certain types of bacteria, but how common are those bacteria and how quickly do they work. Some plastics are “photo” degraded, but how quickly and can the plastic do harm before it decomposes, such as being eaten by a turtle? What happens if the plastic is placed in a landfill: dirt blocks most light! What are the by-products of decomposition, by bacteria or light? These are all questions the student’s science fair project needs to address.
Now math comes in. The student needs to project what they have learned on a small scale onto the world. How much of each type of plastic is produced and where, and will it accumulate faster than it can be absorbed into the environment? A student needs to be able to apply their science fair project beyond the laboratory!
This type of science fair project ties together several fields of science, chemistry, biology, physics, and environmental science as well as math. It illustrates several valid principles and helps the student see the practical uses of science to solve world problems.
That is what Science Fair Projects are about, teaching and learning science, finding its practical uses and stimulating interest, studying how plastic affects the environment is a good one!