Would you want to drink green milk, how about orange mashed potatoes? The color of foods might affect just how much you want to eat them, but what about the birds in your neighborhood, would they care what color their food is? This sounds like an experiment in the making…. you coul even try this out for a science fair project, or just to learn something new while making your locals birds happy.
You will need:
- Several bird feeders that are the same size and type
- Light colored birdseed appropriate for the birds in your neighborhood
- Several colors of food coloring
QUESTION - What color of birdseed, if any, will birds prefer the most?
RESEARCH: Ornithologists (scientists that study birds) are rather certain that most birds can see in color. One reason they think this is because birds themselves are very colorful. In many species, male birds tend to be more colorful than females. This is likely because the males use their coloring to attract a mate, while female birds tend to have less coloring to provide camouflage as they protect their eggs in the nest. Before beginning a large experiment with lots of bird seed, you may want to put out a few small handfuls of different colored birdseed (see instructions for coloring birdseed below) to see how the birds near you react to different colored seed. You may also want to refer to books and talk to an ornithologist to get their opinion about how birds see the word.
MAKE A HYPOTHESIS: Use the information that you’ve gained from your research and make a hypothesis based on your question. An example might be “Birds will eat more green birdseed than other colors.”
EXPERIMENT: This is the fun part. You should get several bird feeders that are all the same size and type. Purchase a bird seed that is very light in color for this experiment. To color the bird seed, pour it into a bowl and then add food coloring that you can purchase from the store. Mix it up well with a spoon and continue to add color until all the seed is colored. You should sample at least a few colors and have one feeder with seed that has not been colored - this is called the control and it will give you something to compare your results to. Now just hang them up outside in the same location, and wait for your feathered friends to show up. This works best in an area that birds are used to feeding from a feeder – it can take birds over a week to find new feeders.
COLLECT DATA: Observe your bird feeder whenever possible, and keep track of how much seed is in each bird feeder each day. A ruler is helpful for this. You might also want to take pictures of the feeders and keep track of which kind of birds visit each feeder. Over time, you should be able to see if one color of seed gets eaten more than others.
MAKE A CONCLUSION: Once your experiment is done, you will be able to go back to your hypothesis and see if it is correct. Remember,it’s not bad if your hypothesis was wrong. The main thing is that you’ve learned something from your experiment, and hopefully you had some fun doing it.
If you try this, let me know how it goes!
If you need inexpensive bird feeders, you can get some on-line HERE.
Testing for bacteria (germs) can be a great idea for a science fair experiment since there are so many possibilities for science questions, and because carrying out the experiment is pretty easy using widely available bacteria growing kits. Besides, who doesn’t like checking out bacteria and fungus?
All good science experiments start with a question – this is what you want to find out by experimenting. Here are a few example questions to get you started using the scientific method for growing bacteria:
- Is a dogs mouth cleaner than a humans mouth?
- Who has the cleanest mouth in the class?
- Do antibacterial soaps really kill bacteria?
- Which door handle in the school has the most bacteria?
- Does toothpaste kill bacteria in your mouth?
- Do dark socks create more bacteria in a shoe than white socks.
- Do hand sanitizers work to kill bacteria?
- What location in the school contains the most bacteria?
- Is there more bacteria in tap water, bottled spring water, rain water, or pond water?
Step 1 – Ask A Question: Let’s imaging that you want to answer the question, “Which door handle in the school has the most germs?”
Step 2 – Research: You can’t just jump in and start experimenting. It’s important to do a little research. Ask the school nurse which door handle he or she thinks the most germs (bacteria) are. Observe and chart which door handles get the most use, survey friends and family to get opinions and write down the results. All this information will help you narrow down which door handles are the most likely to contain germs – and which ones you should choose to use in your experiment.
Step 3 – Make a Hypothesis: This is when you make a prediction based on your research. This is not an “I think…” prediction, it is a statement that will either be proven true or false based on experimenting. An example would be, “The handle to the nurse’s room contains the most bacteria.”
Step 4 – Experiment: This particular science experiment requires a simple bacteria testing kit. You would choose several door handles that you think might contain the most bacteria. These door handles are considered the Independent Variable in your experiment because each handle is independent and you control which ones are chosen. In a typical kit you would touch a separate cotton swab to each door handle, and then touch it to the bacteria growing Petri dish so that you would have one dish for each handle. Take good notes that would include when you collected each sample and where you collected the sample, and be sure to label everything well in any experiment.
Step 5- Collect Data: In this experiment, bacteria will start to grow in the Petri dish over the next few days, and you may be surprised by just how much gross bacteria is lurking in your school. Take good notes each day and determine which dish has the most bacteria growing in it.
Step 6 – Make Your Conclusion: This is when you decide if your hypothesis is correct. If your hypothesis was, “The handle to the nurse’s room contains the most bacteria,” your experiment will show if your hypothesis was right. It is not bad at all if your hypothesis is incorrect, what is important is that you answered your question from step 1. Now pat yourself on the back for your fine scientific discovery using the Scientific Method.
CLICK HERE for information about Bacteria Growing Kits.
7 year old Sarah of Tennessee wondered if all bubble gum was created equal and which of the many brands of bubble gum in the candy aisle would giver her the largest bubble? All this wondering led to a science fair entry that won first place.
Sarah made great use of The Scientific Method to answer her sugary suspicions. Sarah’s hypothesis was, “Gum that is harder, stickier, and has more sugar will make bigger bubbles than gum that is softer, not sticky, and less sugary.” She carefully tested 6 popular brands of bubble gum being sure to chew them all the same and keep careful notes. She measured carefully (with help from Mom) and charted her results. After the sugar rush subsided, she reviewed her data and she was a bit surprised by her conclusion. So what is the most bubbly of the bubble gums? Try it out yourself and find out. Besides any time you can mix candy and science, it’s a good thing. Congratulations on your experiment Sarah!
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