Science Fair - Experimental Design II

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SWBAT design, conduct & analyze an experiment using only items supplied.

Big Idea

Designing, conducting & analyzing an experiment takes practice time for success.

The Need for the Lesson

Science Fair requires students to design, conduct and analyze an experiment. Sometimes students just do not know where to start. Practicing experimental design in class while collaborating with their peers helps students develop the confidence they need to tackle the much larger individual science fair projects. 

Experimental Design II models extending the student accountability with each new experimental design opportunity. 

Students are now learning to create their graphs in a spreadsheet and expand their reflection to include data to support their assertions.

Investigation Preparation & Summary

10 minutes

Science fair is not an easy task for students especially if they have limited experience designing and testing their own experiments. This lessons is designed to give an opportunity to practice designing their own experiment with a partner so they are prepared to tackle the science fair on their own. Students begin by asking a question that can be answered using the materials provided, (SP1 - Asking questions)

Students will be give a document to help them begin planning their experiment. The overview includes all the elements need to begin their experiment. For this lesson students are not expected to write out detailed procedures. They will work on that process in the Science Fair - Write-It, Do-It lesson. (SP3 Planning and carrying out investigations)

The data collected will be measured using students will calculate and graph averages of multiple tests. Students will learn that when creating a table, the independent variable should be listed first, then the dependent variable. (SP5 - Using mathematics and computational thinking)

Data collected in a table is a good way for students to begin to see a pattern. The graph of the averages will help students visually find patterns and trends in their data. Students will add their data table to a spreadsheet and create a graph from that data table, learning how to gerneate a graph and amend the default labels. (SP4 - Analyzing and interpreting data)

After students have graphed their data, they should be able to describe the data and what it tells them. A cause and effect relationship should be noticed by students. (SP6 - Constructing explanations) (SP7 - Engaging in argument from evidence) (SP8 - Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information)

A complete materials list can be found in the resources section.

This lesson was inspired by the North Carolina Science Olympiad Coaches Clinic document prepared by Michael D. Huberty. You can find the document in is entirety here.  

Students in Action

90 minutes

To prepare for the upcoming science fair, we will practice designing experiments. For the actual science fair you will of course be working independently. This is your opportunity to practice designing and implementing an experiment working with a partner.

Today you will design an experiment about parachutes using only the materials provided. 

The materials available are 

  • Marbles
  • Paper Napkins and / or paper towels
  • Tape
  • Hex nuts
  • Newspaper
  • Various plastic shopping bags
  • Various paper and plastic cups
  • Wooden craft sticks
  • Fishing line
  • String
  • Various rubber bands
  • Small cardboard pieces
  • Meter sticks
  • Scissors 


With a partner you will need to ask a question, identify experimental controls, independent, dependent variables and a hypothesis.

What kind of question should you ask? A question that does not have a simple yes or no answer.

Once you and your partner have decided upon your experiment design a data collection table. The first thing listed in your table should be your independent variable. What is the independent variable? What you should change in an experiment. The next item listed should be the dependent variable. What is the dependent variable? What you should measure in an experiment.

When you write your hypothesis please use the following format. If... then... because... where you state in the if part of the sentence what you are changing, in the then part of the sentence tell us what you think will happen and in the because part of the sentence give us a reason you think your hypothesis is correct.

Download the Experimental Design Template. You and your partner will each turn in a digital write-up of your experiment. You are responsible for completing all sections of the template. This template is similar to the one you will use for the science fair. You will be stating the question, writing a hypothesis, identifying your variables, listing materials and writing step-by-step instructions for the procedure, evaluating both qualitative and quantitative results, create a graph using a spreadsheet to collect the data and generate the graph, analyze the graph, write a conclusion and make suggestions for additional experimentation.

To help you with each section, the template has a short explanation for each topic.

The new big idea in this lesson is the creation of the graph. I will walk you through that process.

This is a video I share with students to reference as they create graphs in excel. I model the process for students in class and post this video for later use.