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     You don’t need to use animals in science fair projects – there are all kinds of alternatives.  Some are listed below:

  • Walk your dog through the woods, then study the seeds that are dispersed by clinging to the dog’s fur (if you don’t have a dog, you can use an old blanket instead).
  • Study the growth of molds on food items under different growing conditions; vary foods and growing conditions.
  • Observe birds at a feeder; for example, which species eat together?  Which species leave when other species arrive?  Which species eat which seeds/fruits/berries and why?
  • Which bird species are attracted to which types of birdhouses and/or cover vegetation and why?
  • Count seeds on plants: how many seeds do different plants produce?  How does the number of seeds very among seed pods on the same plant?  Different plants of a single species?  Different species? Why?
  • Survey a particular plant species for insect life.  What sorts of adaptations do certain species have for living on this plant? (e.g., camouflagic coloration).   Monitor the number of insect visitors to a small cluster of flowers/plants.   How does visitation change with time of day, year, weather, etc?

  • Grow bean sprouts in commercial sprouters (beans and sprouters are available in natural food stores).  Compare growth rates of different types of beans, different lighting conditions.  Compare different sprouter designs.  Compare taste preferences of students.
  • Sample plants from small plots in school ground (or backyard).  Relate their distribution to microhabitats, student activity patterns, etc.
  • Food preferences of ants: design a study involving placing different food items near the entrance to one or more ant colonies and recording behavior responses of ants.
  • Sample the soil in different habitats and (with the aid of a light microscope) survey the invertebrates (insects, earthworms, roundworms, etc.) found there. How do different habitats compare? Different soil depths?
  • Comparative study of plants: e.g., two populations of dandelions (one growing in an undisturbed area, the other in a more disturbed area).  Examples of data that could be collected include stem length, seed number, density, leaf area, seed plume length and width, etc).
  • Collect, grow and study bacterial cultures from various places: example – garbage cans, doorknobs, mouth. Compare bacteria in mouth before and after brushing.
  • Study leafing patterns of trees/bushes. Which species do/don’t drop their leaves for the winter?  Which drop their leaves the soonest? Which leaves do/don’t change color.  Why?
  • Observe nesting birds (e.g. watch nest for an hour each day; estimate the number of insects consumed, based on the number of trips to/from the nest.  Extrapolate over all the daylight hours.  Do males or females perform the same amount of each parental duty?
  • Study absenteeism in school.  Relate it to colds, flu or other illnesses.
  • Use a water analysis kit to test water at various points along a river or stream, to associate bacterial contaminants and other things (turbidity) with sewer plants, run off, etc.
  • Physiological self-study: e.g. test hearing directionality by blindfolding fellow students and tapping a metal object to right, left, front and back of blindfolded subject. Test smelling/tasting accuracy of students (e.g. using juice from various fruits).
  • Habitat analysis in a local piece of wild land. What types of trees are there?   What types of animals are there? How might they interact?
  • Compare the behavior of ducks at a pond where they are fed by humans and at a pond where they are not.
  • Find a roosting tree of starlings (or other gregarious bird species). Determine from what direction most of the birds enter/leave the roost.  Starlings are an excellent species for observational study.  They are abundant, very active, intelligent, social, vocal, opportunistic. etc.
  • Put up a bright light to attract bugs to a white sheet. Identify the bugs while they are on the sheet; are the bugs the same in different areas?
  • Examine air pollution by sampling (by rubbing them with white tissue paper) the surfaces of tree leaves (or building surfaces…) in different areas of a city. If you live near an industrial incinerator, you might compare samples taken at different distances (100 yards, l/2 mile, 5 miles, etc) from the incinerator.
  • Maintain a compost pile and study the invertebrates that live in it.
  • Compare trunks of dead with living trees in a wooded area: e.g. compare woodpecker holes, fungal growth.
  • Conduct a behavioral study of your companion animal(s) at home: e.g. to what sounds do they respond; tape record different voices and monitor animal’s response when played back (i.e., visual stimuli have been eliminated); compare response to different vocal inflections; observe closely sleeping pet and monitor body movements; frequency of REM sleep; prepare an ethogram that reflects the different personality of different cats/dogs. Examine play behavior; etc. (A video camera may be very useful for such studies).
  • Measure the heights of students in the class.  Conduct a statistical analysis (mean height, standard deviation, significant differences based on age or sex.  Compare statistics for small and large groups of students.

     In New York City, humane science awards are presented each year for projects that meet one or more of the following requirements:

  • Promote greater understanding of other species and/or the interrelationships between species.
  • Encourage more humane treatment of animals.
  • Encourage a greater respect for the intrinsic value and worth of animals.
  • Illustrate the relationship between human well-being, environmentalism and the interests of animals.
  • Crate models of non-intrusive, productive animal research through natural (non-manipulative) observations.
  • Foster the study of threatened or endangered species in non-laboratory settings.
  • Document epidemiological, case study and experimental research that advances humane health without harming animals.


For more information you can visit the United Federation of Teacher's Humane Science Project Development Webpage.

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