United States
        Environmental Protection
           December 2000
Solid Waste and Emergency Response (5305W)
Designing environmental.





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             to          a                  ,,.,.. 2
       Pro|ects:The       of the 3Rs................6
  Test Your Strength!,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 7
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  A Trashy       ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,7
                   Compost,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 8
        of                ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,8
      in the       ................................ 9
  How DoesYoyr      Grow?  ...................... 9
Glossary,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 10
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       CI&DC& Is fan—especially when you create a science fair
       project focusing on the environment! Stumped on how to start
       or what to do? This booklet can be your guide. Good lock!
    This booklet provides a
step-by-step guide on con-
ducting an environmental sci-
ence fair project and contains
several example projects. The
examples focus on various
aspects of the "3 Rs" (reduce,
reuse, and recycle), such as
measuring the amount of
trash thrown away each week
or determining which waste
items will biodegrade when
placed in a landfill. This book-
let also contains a list of useful
resources for developing
potential projects.
    Whether you arc starting
a science fair program in your
school or are looking to
expand your knowledge of
the 3 Rs, this booklet will
help get you started. Through
science fair projects, you can learn more about the world around
you and help make a difference in protecting the environment.

          id you ever notice something and wonder why it happens
          or see something and wonder what causes it? Do you
          ever want to know how or why something works? Do
you ask questions about what you observe in the world? If so, you
are on your way to conducting a science project! The following
guidelines offer some steps to follow.
                     Write down something interesting you
                 noticed and want to investigate in more detail.
                 Make a list of questions about the topic.
    Research the topic you want to investigate.
Search the Internet, go to the library, read books
and magazines, or talk to others to learn about
what you are studying. Keep track of where you
obtained your information.
                      Choose a title that describes what you are
                   investigating. The title should summarize what
                   the investigation will cover.

                      What do yon want to find out? Write a
                   statement describing what you want to do. Use
                   your observations and questions to write the
   Make a list of answers to the questions you
have. This can be a list of statements describing
how or why you think the subject of your
experiment works. The hypothesis must be stat-
ed so that it can be tested by an experiment.
                      Design an experiment to test each hypothe-
                  sis. Make a step-by-step list of what you will do
                  to -address the hypothesis. This list is called an
                  experimental procedure.
   Make a list of items you need to do the experi-
ments and prepare the items.  Try to use everyday,
household items. If you need special equipment,
ask your teacher for assistance. Local colleges or
businesses might be able to loan materials to you.

                      Conduct the experiment and record all
                  numerical measurements made, including quan-
                  tity, length, or time. If you are not measuring
                  something, you probably are not doing an
                  experimental science project.
   Record all your observations while conduct-
ing your science project. Observations can be
written descriptions of what you noticed during
an experiment or the problems encountered.
You can also photograph or videotape your
experiment to create a visual record, of what, you
observed. Keep careful notes of everything you
do and everything that happens. Observations
are valuable when drawing conclusions and useful for locating exper-
imental errors.
                          Perform calculations that turn raw data
                       recorded during experiments into numbers
                       you will need to make tables or graphs to
                       draw conclusions.
   Summarize what happened. This summary
could be a table of numerical data, graphs, or a
written statement of what occurred during the

                            Using the trends in your experimental
                         data and your experimental observations,
                         try to answer your original questions. Is
                         your hypothesis correct? Now is the time
                         to pull together what happened and assess
                         the experiments you conducted.
    To prepare a presentation,
ask yourself, "What is most
interesting about this project,
what will people want to read
about, and how can I best
communicate this informa-
tion?" Most of the time, stu-
dents prepare a poster or
three-sided display to give
their audience a quick
overview of the question
asked, die method used,
results, and conclusions. You
can draw charts,  diagrams, or
illustrations to explain your information.

                        Some science fairs require oral presenta-
                    tions. Use an outline or note cards to assist
                    you in your presentation. Although individual
                    science fairs might have different rules, you will
                    most likely be required to introduce yourself
                    and your topic; state what your investigation
                    attempted to discover; describe your proce-
                    dure, results, and conclusions;  and acknowl-
                    edge those who helped you.

                 of  te  3
       he following sample projects were created to provide you
       with a basis for designing your own environmental experi-
       ment. You must expand on any of these ideas by coming up
with your own hypothesis and exact experimental procedure. You
can also design an experiment to test a different aspect of any of the
topics discussed, or use one of the sample procedures to conduct an
experiment on a different environmental topic.
                 Usually, it is more economical to buy larger
                 rather than smaller sizes of products.
                  Purchasing larger quantities is known as
                  "buying in bulk." For example, a 5-ounce
                  box of brand X laundry detergent might
                  cost $3. Dividing 5 into $3 gives us a cost
                  of 60 cents per ounce. A ID-ounce box
                  might only cost S5, making the cost 50
                  cents per ounce. Buying in bulk might
             have advantages other than cost savings. Examine
          the ratio of carton material to the product quantity.
Does buying in larger quantities also require less packaging material
per unit measure of the product? Could people lessen their impact
on the environment by buving in bulk?

   Some people question whether products made from recycled
materials can perform their jobs as well as products made from entire-
ly new materials. Plastics, paper products, aluminum cans, and some
clothing are all commonly available with  both new and recycled con-
tent. Choose a product, such as writing paper, and compare the
strength and performance of the "virgin" (new)
product to ones made with different percentages
of recycled content. Docs manufacturing a prod-
uct with recycled materials alter its performance
(e.g., strength, durability)?
   Much of what we throw away
can be returned to the earth to
provide nutrients for the soil
rather than going to a landfill.
Evaluate and record each item
your family throws away for 1
week by collecting, weighing,
and categorizing them as recy-
clable, reusable, biodegrad-
able, or trash. How much of
what we throw away could be
recycled or is biodegradable and could be returned to the earth?
                       How many people around you save news-
                     papers, bottles, and other items to recycle?
                       How many people around you compost
                        their food scraps or yard trimmings in
                        their kitchen or backyard? How many
                        people reuse grocery bags and scrap
                        paper, donate clothes and books instead
                         of throwing them away, or conduct
                        other waste reduction activities? Trv to

determine what percentage of die population around you partici-
pates in these and other waste reduction activities. Survey a select
number of people, including your neighbors, teachers, friends, local
store owners, relatives, and others. Extrapolate these figures to
obtain a percentage for your entire community.
    Composting can be a good way for gardeners to
reuse food scraps and yard trimmings
while making their gardens healthier.
Tn order to work properly, a compost
pile needs the right balance of air, moisture,
carbon, and nitrogen. Build several different
compost piles and vary the amounts of air, moisture, carbon,
and nitrogen in each (e.g., one that is very dry, one carbon-rich, and
one nitrogen-rich). For example, a carbon-rich pile would mostly con-
tain dead leaves or coffee grounds while a nitrogen-rich pile would
mostly contain grass clippings or fruit and vegetable peels. Make sure
you also build a "perfect" compost pile with good air circulation and a
balance of ingredients to control the experiment. What effect will dif-
ferences in the ingredients have on the finished compost?
    Compost can help plants grow by adding important nutrients to
the soil. You can test the effectiveness of compost as a soil amend-
ment by planting two small potted gardens, adding compost to one
and using only soil for the other. Fast growing seeds, such as sun-
flower or bean seeds, will allow you to see results in a matter of days.
Make sure both pots receive the same amount, of moisture and sun-
light to  control the experiment. Compare the  root structures and
stems from plants from the two pots. Does adding compost to the
soil result in healthier, stronger, faster-growing plants?

    Paints, cleaners, and other toxic, corrosive,
ignitable or reactive products used at home
may be hazardous to human health and the
environment. There are, however, a number of
natural alternatives that can do the same job
with less risk. Choose several household clean-
ers, such as glass cleaner, silver polish, laun-
dry bleach, or furniture polish, and compare
their effectiveness with natural do-it-yourself alternatives. When
handling household hazardous products, be sure to follow label
instructions and always request adult supervision. Do the natural
cleaners perform as well as the hazardous ones?
    The number of chemical combinations that have been invented is
staggering and continues to grow each year. Many common, everyday
items are made from these chemicals, including clothing, appliances,
food wrappers, and containers, to name a few. Do these items
decompose naturally when buried, in a landfill, or will they remain as
they are for long periods of time? Plant a throwaway garden. Do
products made purely from natural substances break down faster than
those produced with human-made chemical combinations?

The following documents are available from EPA's toll-free Hotline (800 424-9346)
at no charge; reference the following publication numbers when ordering:
The Qne-stfor Less: A Tmeber's Gttid-e to Reducing, Rettstty,     Recycling,
Planet Protectors Club Kit (workbooks, certificate, badge, board game).
A Resource Guide of Solid  Waste Educa-tional Materials: Second Edition.
          of the         Gremlin: Recycle            a Life of Grime (comic
  book).  EPA530-SW-90-024.
Ride the                  Recycle       (poster).  EPA530-SW-90-010.
Service-Learning:                the          (brochure). EPA530-K-99-001.
Let's Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle! (CD-ROM). EPA530-C-00-001
*     ://www,epa.gO¥/epaoswer/osw/careers/

• http ://www.isd77,kI2 .mn .us/resources/cf/SciProjIntro .html
• www.isd77.fcl2 .mn.us/r csources/cf/SciPr o jlntro .html
• www.detroit.lib .mi .us/is/sdence_fair.htm
• http ://faeulty. Washington .edu/chudlcr/feir.html
Other           for Teachers
lite Environmental Education- Collection: A Review of Resources far Educators^
  Volume 1, North American Association for Environmental Education (1997),
The                        Collection: A       of Resources for
          2, North American Association for Environmental Education (1998).

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