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Using Carnivorous Plants in Science Projects
Project Hints

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Venus Flytraps VFT trigger hair Venus Flytrap
Venus Flytraps in cultivation--Venus Flytrap trigger hair--Venus Flytrap

Here is a list of hints on how to conduct your investigation. Follow these suggestions and your project will have a true scientific nature of inquiry.

  1. Start early.  Investigations can take several weeks or months and it is important to plan ahead.
  2. Be original.  Select a topic that is of interest to you and one that you do not know the answer to ahead of time.  Ask yourself the question “what if…” as it might apply to the topic you are interested in.  For example: “What if I changed the soil in which Venus Flytraps grow?”  Or “What if the type of food feed to sundews was varied, would this affect the time the traps takes to close?”
  3. Keep the topic narrow and specific.  It is important that your investigation be answerable and manageable in the time frame you are working with.  Some topics may be too broad.  For example, do you want to ask, “Which food do carnivorous plants prefer?” or “Which food do butterworts prefer?”  There is a big difference in the scope and scale of these two projects.  Be sure you topic is specific enough to be workable for you.
  4. Keep in close contact with your teacher or adult sponsor.  This will help you meet any project requirements, work out challenges you come across, and provide a thoughtful summary and presentation.
  5. Follow the assigned format carefully.  If the project is a class assignment or a science fair investigation, there may be specific requirements for the project.  Be sure you know these ahead of time and follow them carefully.
  6. Conduct a fair test.  Be sure you consider carefully all the variables that might affect your investigation and keep all the appropriate ones constant.  If you were investigating the affect of color on growth, it would not be fair to grow some plants in peat and others in clay.  The peat or clay may affect your results.  Some investigations require you set aside a control group, so that you have a set of plants to compare to see if your investigation made any difference.
  7. Use lots of trials.  It would not be scientific appropriate to base your conclusions on 1 or 2 trials.  Just because something happened once, does not mean it will happen again.  Using many trails and averaging your results will help verify your findings.  Ten observations or trials are better than three, and a hundred are even better still.
  8. Record your results as you conduct your investigation.  Do not rely on your memory for details.  Label things as you go.  This will help you keep track of your variables and which ones make a difference in your investigation.
  9. Do not “fudge” your results to get the answer you expect.  Good scientific investigations report out on what truly happened.  It is okay to disprove your hypothesis.  It is the interpretation of your findings that’s most important, not the actual results.
  10. Be accurate in your math.  Review your calculations for completeness and accuracy.  Do they make sense?  Be sure to include proper units.  When graphing, be sure to include such details as: graph title, axis titles, even axis increments, axis units, and a “best-fit” curve (a line that shows the general trend of the data, not a dot to dot connecting the data points).
  11. Be neat and well organized.  Cleanliness, color and a neat presentation go a long way in helping readers or listeners understand your work.

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