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15.2: Projects

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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The following Projects are an assortment of long-term activities that can be completed individually, in groups or as a class. We have provided starting points for research and development; you and the students can work together to create a more detailed plan of action. Consider the following two recommendations. First, because of the amount of work involved in a Project, students should choose one of great interest to them. Second, to encourage excellence and promote student-student learning, students should present their finished projects to the rest of the class, to the school and to the community, if appropriate.

Project 1: Research Questions and Action Projects

Project 1 differs from the others: it is a list of possible research topics organized according to some key ideas and addressed to students.

In assigning a Research Question or Action Project, we ask that you allow students to choose their topic-either one provided or one of their own. You might also:

  1. Specify length of piece.
  2. Make clear the purpose and the audience.
  3. Suggest sources and ideas for information.
  4. Provide in-class time for compiling information and writing.
  5. Require students to exchange papers and provide written feedback.
  6. Provide a breakdown of due-dates for the following stages: choice of topic, outline, rough draft and final draft.
  7. Permit students to supplement a written report with a skit, a piece of artwork, a piece of music, a dance, a video, or a multimedia presentation.


Provide the students with evaluation criteria that include:

  • accuracy of the content based on guiding questions.
  • clarity of writing.
  • effective organization of main ideas.
  • use of detailed examples or citing evidence to support their conclusions.

Project 1: Teacher Activity Notes - Research Questions and Action Projects

1. Learn About Natural Communities.

Research local examples of energy flow from producers to consumers, the cycling of water, carbon and nitrogen, niches and habitats, species interactions, or human impacts on the environment. You can visit local parks, vacant lots, and backyards to conduct your research.

2. How Do You Interact with the Environment? Take an active role in improving this interaction. You can:

  • collect information that illustrates the uniqueness of your own natural communities.
  • decide what major living and nonliving factors must be kept in balance in order to keep the environment functioning well.
  • identify some problems that threaten the continuing ecological balance of your community.
  • explore some possible solutions to these problems. Which solutions are best and why?

3. Eat Low on the Food Chain. Find and implement ways of eating low on the food chain, that is, by eating more grains and vegetables and fewer meat and animal products. You can:

  • plan a meal based on grains, fruits, and vegetables. Emphasize the nutritional benefits of eating low on the food chain by including a nutritional breakdown of your menus.
  • plan and grow a vegetable garden. The garden could be as small as a bowl of bean sprouts sprinkled on a clean, wet sponge, or as large as rows of vegetables on a plot of ground at the school site. You can grow herbs such as basil, parsley, and chives in window boxes or pots in the classroom.

4. Ecology in the News. Gain awareness of the importance of knowing about ecological principles by analyzing newspaper and magazine articles focused on ecology and the environment. This activity can be an ongoing activity throughout the year. You can use the information sources to find articles relating to the environment. Some suggested topics are

  • use of pesticides in agriculture
  • deforestation
  • water pollution
  • toxic materials in the environment
  • endangered species
  • food shortages caused by drought

5. Cleanup Projects. Ask school, town, and park officials what needs cleaning up in your community. Cleaning up parks, public nature areas, local streams, or lakeside areas can be done in supervised groups sponsored by the school or in conjunction with other community groups. During and after the project, you may write articles for the newspaper and prepare photos or videos to help share your experiences with the school and community.

6. Upkeep and Improvement of Wildlife Preserves. Check with your local park department or state offices of Fish and Wildlife Services for possible restoration or park management projects. You can help trim plants, build animal shelter, restore damaged streambeds, participate in beach cleanups, or perform a multitude of other helpful tasks. You may also want to learn more about the particular plants and animals living in the area in which you are working.

7. Wildlife Rescue Shelters. If your community already has a facility that takes in injured or sick wild animals, contact it and find out if there are any projects with which you can help. Perhaps a guest speaker from the shelter can introduce the operation.

8. Find-Raising for Contribution to Environmental Organizations.' Many environmental organizations have programs for schools in which they send information and posters in return for your contribution.


  • Rainforest Action Network, 300 Broadway, Suite 28, San Francisco, CA 94133
  • World Wildlife Fund, 1250 24th St. NW, Washington, DC 20037
  • Sierra Club, 730 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94009
  • Nature Conservancy International, 1800 North Kent St., Suite 800, Arlington, VA 22209

or local organizations according to your class's interests. The Rainforest Action Network sponsors a “Protect an Acre” program for this purpose. For further information about this project and other related resources, contact the main office of the Rainforest Action Network.

Make sure that this type of fund-raising project is within school and district guidelines. In addition to student suggestions, fund-raisers can include bake sales within the school, PTSA, and community; sales of items on which students earn a “commission” for the project, such as reusable lunch sacks with a school emblem; auctions of student services, such as homework tutoring or baby-sitting; car washes; or holiday gift sales.

9. Eco-Shirts. You can increase community awareness of environmental problems while making money to donate to an environmental organization by selling T-shirts with an ecology theme. Buy white T-shirts in bulk (only a few dollars per shirt) and permanent marking pens. Set up a table at school or a community gathering and let people make their own Eco-Shirts for 7 or 8 dollars each. Posters and information about environmental problems may provide people with ideas for their shirts. You can also use fabric paints, but they are more expensive than marking pens.

10. Improving Efficiency of Home Energy Usage. Local utilities offices often have educational outreach departments that provide materials and speakers to educate the public about efficient use of energy in the home and workplace. Invite a guest speaker or ask for printed materials to help you develop a project. One possibility is a home energy-use evaluation to help you assess energy efficiency at home.

11. Community Recycling Projects. If your community has a recycling program, find out ways in which you can participate in the program both at school and at home. If your community doesn't have a recycling program, join with your PTSA and other local organizations to begin one. For financial assistance, contact local business people either directly or through service organizations.

12. Research an Endangered Species. Find out which local organisms are on the endangered species list, and learn about the characteristics and habitat requirements of those organisms. Investigate programs designed to help preserve these organisms. You can answer the following questions to guide your research:

  • What are some endangered species in our state?
  • How can I find out about these species?
  • Why are these species on the endangered species list? What is threatening them?
  • What is being done to protect these species?
  • What can I do to help?

The first step in any research should be to contact your local library. Additionally, you can write business letters to organizations for information such as state natural resource agencies, the Sierra Club, or the Nature Conservancy. You can also conduct phone interviews to find out about efforts to protect endangered species. Periodical searches, both in the library and on-line, can also be invaluable in finding up-to-date information on the status and politics of endangered species.

Project 2: Teacher Activity Notes - Population Boom or Bust


Summary Students observe a population of fruit flies growing in an environment that has certain limitations. Students consider how this population is similar to a human population growing in an environment with a limited carrying capacity.

Estimated Time

One 50-minute period for setting up the containers

An ongoing weekly or monthly project throughout the year

Twenty minutes a week for checking progress of populations

Student Materials

  • Safety goggles
  • 2-liter plastic drink bottle, empty
  • Cutting instruments, such as single-edge razor in safety holder, scissors, exacto knife
  • 2 to 3 small bottle lids or empty film canisters
  • Plastic lid, sized to fit snugly into the bottom of bottle base
  • Hammer
  • Small nail
  • Piece of wood (to protect table when pounding in nail)
  • Tape
  • Food for fruit flies, such as fresh ripe banana or canned pumpkin
  • Yeast, dried (optional)

Reference: Bottle Biology from the Bottle Biology Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Plant Pathology, 1630 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706, (608) 263-5645.


Functioning fruit fly breeder


The purpose of this project is for students to observe and maintain a living population of organisms. Students can watch the population of fruit flies grow and decline with the manipulation of various variables, such as food types and amount of space. Choose from the following investigations to experiment with your population.

1. See the Resource for setting up the fruit fly breeder.

2. Maintain the fruit fly colony.

To maintain the fruit fly colony, you will need to give the flies fresh food. You can access the food containers to replace them by moving the top of the breeder carefully and pulling it out of the base. This disturbance should cause the flies to move into the top of the breeder where they cannot get out. Then you can carefully and quickly remove the old food containers and replace them with new ones. Replace the top part of the breeder securely when you have finished.

3. Start a new fruit fly colony.

What can you do with the old food containers, which contain fruit fly eggs? You could make another breeder by placing them into a new breeder apparatus. The fruit flies will hatch out into the new breeder while new fruit flies enter through the hole in the lid. In this way, you can begin a new population of fruit flies.

4. Try different kinds of foods to find out which ones the fruit flies like best.

Which kinds of foods do fruit flies prefer? Do they prefer foods with or without added yeast? Cooked or raw? Design experiments to test different types of foods. Make observations and then explain what you have observed.

5. Try different sizes of bottles for a fruit fly colony.

Which size bottle seems to work best for starting and maintaining a fruit fly colony? Try a 1-liter bottle, and even a smaller sized bottle. How can you tell which type is best? Observe and record your results.

6. Design a better fruit fly trap and breeder. Experiment to create other designs for making a fruit fly trap and breeder.

Assess if students can

  • describe the characteristics and behaviors of fruit flies, Drosophila melanogaster.
  • make accurate observations of the fruit fly population through the use of drawings as well as text.
  • identify what happens to the fruit fly population as a result of changes in type of food and/or amount of space.
  • graph the fruit fly population growth over time.
  • design and maintain a more efficient fruit fly trap/breeder.

Project 2: Resource Population Boom or Bust (Student Reproducible)

Caution: Follow safety rules and wear safety goggles when using cutting instruments and hammers.


1. Remove label and base from bottle by using warm water.

2. Cut bottles as shown in the diagrams below.

3. Place the bottle lid on a piece of wood with the open end up. Using a hammer and a small nail, make a hole in the lid. It is important to create the hole in the direction shown to make it easy for the flies to enter the breeder and difficult for them to leave. It is also critical that the hole is only large enough to allow a single fly to enter.

4. Invert the bottle bottom and place it into the straight portion of the bottle, as shown at right. Tape carefully and securely so the flies will not leave the container.

5. Fit a small plastic lid snugly into the bottom of the base to block the holes.

6. Add some mashed banana to the “food containers” (lids or film canisters). Place the food containers into the base.

7. Now put the top of the breeder completely down into the base. It should fit firmly.

8. Place the breeder in a place where you think there might be fruit flies. If the weather is warm, the breeder could even be put outside near a garbage can. Eventually, wild fruit flies should be attracted by the food to fly into the bottle through the hole in the lid. In general, flies will come more quickly in the warm weather of summer. You may catch more than fruit flies. Make sure that you eliminate the other insects you have attracted and start a colony only with fruit flies.

9. Flies will lay their eggs in the fruit. Larvae will hatch shortly and the flies will soon become adults. The fruit fly life cycle is about 10-14 days (at ).

Project 3: Teacher Activity Notes Species Diversity of Birds


Summary Students learn about the species diversity of birds in their area by designing an experiment that uses bird feeders to observe and analyze local bird species diversity.

Estimated Time

One 50-minute period to design experiment

Two 50-minute periods for setup

Student Materials

  • Safety goggles

For Bird Feeder 1:

  • Plastic drink bottle
  • Plastic lids from containers (plastic lid must be about 4” larger in diameter than the bottle)


  • individual water container + 2 lids from 8-ounce soft margarine containers
  • 1-liter soft drink container + 2 lids from 2-pound coffee cans
  • 2-liter soft drink container + 2 lids from larger cans
  • Cutting tools (such as scissors, single-edged razor in safety holder, knife)
  • Wooden dowels or sticks for bird perches (6 inches longer than the diameter of the bottle)
  • Strong cord for hanging bird feeder
  • Hammer
  • Nail

For Bird Feeder 2:

  • Empty milk carton, 1-qt or 2-qt size
  • Stick or dowel for perch (6 inches longer than the diameter of the bottle)
  • Strong cord for hanging bird feeder
  • Cutting tools (such as scissors, single-edged razor in safety holder, knife)


  • Ranger Rick's Nature Scope, Volume 1, Number 4, “Birds, Birds, Birds,” published by the National Wildlife Federation.
  • Birdwise by Pamela M. Hickman, Addison Wesley Publishing Co.
  • “Bottle Biology,” University of Wisconsin.
  • An Illustrated Guide to Attracting Birds, Sunset Publishing Corporation.


Functioning bird feeder

Experiment design for testing a variable in bird feeders, or measuring species diversity in birds

Lab report of experiment on birds and bird feeders


1. Have students design an experiment to test one of the following variables or questions, or a question that they can create:

What type of food will best attract certain kinds of birds or the largest number of birds: cracked corn, peanut nibs, millet, or wild bird seed mix?

What kind of bird feeder will best attract certain birds or the largest number of birds?

What location of the bird feeder will attract certain birds or the largest number of birds: near shrubs, high or low off the ground, on different kinds of trees?

What is the species diversity of birds in a specific habitat?

What is the species diversity of birds in different proximities to human activities?

2. Make sure students outline the following considerations in their experiment design: Who will make the observations?

How will they be conducted?

Will photographic, videotape, or tape recorder data be gathered?

How often will observations be made?

What will be the duration of each observation?

At what time of day will observations be made?

At what time of year will the experiment be conducted?

How will you plan to provide food on an ongoing basis?

3. Students can make observations and collect quantifiable data as well as drawings of the different birds they see. Have them graph any data that they collect. Some examples are number of birds attracted by several different kinds of food, types of birds attracted by one type of food, and different locations that attract the most birds.

4. Extensions of this project could include designing your own bird feeder, with specified limitations such as using only recycled materials.

Assess if students can

  • design and conduct an experiment to test a variable related to bird feeders.
  • identify the variable(s) to be tested and include a control in the experimental design.
  • write an experimental procedure that can be repeated by someone else.
  • develop a procedure for collecting and recording data.
  • make observations and collect quantifiable data, as well as create drawings of the different birds.
  • construct a graph of data.
  • prepare a report to explain the results and conclusions.

Project 3: Activity Guide Species Diversity of Birds (Student Reproducible)

Caution: Follow safety rules and wear goggles when using sharp instruments, hot instruments such as a soldering iron, and hammers.

Procedure for Bird Feeder 1

1. Using the hammer and nail, puncture a hole in the lid. Tie a knot in a piece of string and thread string through the hole in the lid.

2. Measure and mark each plastic lid to indicate the size of the circle that must be cut out to allow the lid to be slipped tightly around the bottle.

  • Place bottle on lid and trace around it.


  • Use a piece of string to measure the circumference of the bottle. Using the formula for circumference of a circle, calculate the diameter. Using this diameter, mark a circle on the lid.

3. Using scissors, cut out the marked circle from each lid, being careful not to make the circle too large as the lid needs to fit snugly onto the bottle.

4. Fit one of the lids near the top of the bottle. If the lid is too snug, make four small cuts inside the circle at right angles to make it fit. Repeat this process with the second lid, placing the lid closer to the bottom of the bottle.

5. Using a soldering iron or scissors, make a hole just under the plastic plate on each side of the bottle to fit the stick or dowel. Now make a small hole above each perch to allow bird seed to fall out onto the plastic lid, as shown in the diagram.

6. Push the dowel through the holes. Be sure that this perch is at right angles to the first wooden perch (see above).

7. Cut a length of strong cord and tie it securely through the top of your bird feeder. You are now ready to fill your bird feeder, hang it up, and begin making observations!

Caution: Follow safety rules and wear goggles when using sharp instruments, hot instruments such as a soldering iron, and hammers.

Procedure for Bird Feeder 2

1. Using a pencil, mark the milk carton for two openings. They should begin about 3-4 inches above the bottom of the carton, and extend to not more than 1-2 inches from the top and 1 inch from each of the sides.

2. Cut out each of the openings. Your milk carton should now have two “windows” of equal size on opposite sides.

3. Make holes for the perch under each window, and put the stick or dowel through the holes.

4. Cut a length of strong cord and tie it securely through the top of your bird feeder.

5. Now you are ready to fill your feeder with seeds, hang it up, and begin observations!

6. Another option for creating a bird feeder from milk cartons is given in the illustrations below. Or, be creative and think of your own designs for a bird feeder made from a milk carton.

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