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Genetics and Environmental Sciences: 3 Project Ideas For a High School Science Fair

By Dawn Marcotte

Fun high school science fair project ideas in genetics and environmental sciences.

This article is part of a series outlining fun and unusual high school science fair projects. Additional tips for choosing an interesting topic can be found in the first article in the series.

Science Fair Regulations

Each science fair has its own rules and requirements. Participants are expected to follow the directions given for displaying their experiment and the final presentation or they may be disqualified. Some fairs have limitations on space available and others require a specific format for the presentation materials. Review the details of the science fair carefully before choosing a science project to ensure all rules can be followed and the chosen experiment meets all specifications.

Genetic Experiment Ideas

High school students are able to create projects in advanced sciences such as genetics. Avoid traditional genetic research experiments showing the basics of dominant or passive genes as younger or less skilled participants often do these. Explore how specific genetic traits are exhibited within a family. Such traits include the ability to curl your tongue along its long axis, attached or non-attached earlobes and the ability to taste certain types of flavors. Each of these traits are easily observed or tested and the pool of participants can be derived from friends and family members. Take photos of your family members as well as friends and their families to demonstrate how these genetic traits run through families.

Taster vs. Non-Taster Experiment

The ability to taste certain types of flavors such as sweet, salty, spicy or bitter are inherited traits not readily visible and so must be tested. Test friends, classmates and their families to determine what taste abilities are common and which ones run in certain families. Use pre-made ‘taste’ papers that are sweet, salty, bitter, and hot or have no taste: This is the control.

Give each participant a complete set of papers that have been numbered 1 through 5 and a glass of water. Each participant should taste each piece of paper in its numbered order and record what he tastes. A drink of water between each tasting will cleanse the palate to ensure accurate testing. Participants should also take enough taste packets home to test their immediate family. After the testing is complete collect the information and compile the results.

Environmental Sciences Landscape Experiment

High school students who are interested in the environmental sciences or plants can create an experiment to determine the best landscaping for local conditions. Regions throughout the United States vary in temperature, seasons, moisture and altitude. The common usage of bluegrass for yards in the Midwest may not be the best solution for other areas of the country. Proper landscaping can reduce energy usage in heating and cooling costs for homeowners. Native plant usage may reduce the need for watering and even affect insect populations, such as bees or buterflies, in the area.

Local landscape experts are an excellent source of information for research on what plants grow best locally. A student can create three or more models to demonstrate the use of landscaping to reduce costs for homeowners. Each model will contain a 2-foot by 2-foot area to landscape. The first model will be a section of standard sod grass, or whatever type of landscaping is used locally. The second model will have a section of grass with a model tree placed in the corner so it shades the grass and the third model will have a native groundcover type of plant. Additional models can be created with rocks or other landscaping options. Place the models outside where they will not be disturbed, but are open to the natural weather.

Data is gathered several times a day on each square for at least two weeks. Check the temperature in the center of the model in the morning and again in the afternoon. Record the weather during the day for temperature and rainfall. Water the models as needed to keep the plants alive and record how often they need water and how much. After the data has been gathered review it and present the results.