Easy Girls Junior High Science Fair Project
Health and Fitness Topic
Do you like sports? Are you interested in fitness? My daughter Sophie's basketball team had to do stretches in practice and she wondered whether these really helped. That is how she got the idea for this experiment. She won first place at our Regional contest in her division and competed at State. You might want to consider doing this sort of experiment for your project if you have friends that would enjoy helping you test whether flexibility exercises work.
Projects Should Be Fun
Science experiments don't have to be hard to investigate important ideas. My daughter Sophie's easy project "Flexibility in Teenage Girls Versus Adult Women" won first place at our Region fair, and she went on to compete at the state contest.
How to Pick an Easy Topic
Go with your interests and think of a question that you wonder about. As a basketball player, Sophie was interested in whether the stretching exercises they did during practice really were important. In her research, she discovered that flexibility is increasingly important to women as they age because being flexible makes women less prone to falling and broken bones.
Now that you have an idea of a topic, look for what people have done to test that topic. Sophie researched online and found that there was a simple flexibility test called a "Sit and Reach Box" that made it easy to demonstrate whether someone's flexibility had increased.
How to Make Your Experiment Easy
Try to find a way to make each part of the project not take a long time before you know the results. Sophie decided to test her subjects flexibility before and after doing stretching exercises. This was very easy to do and didn't take more than 15 minutes for each person. Here was her procedure:
- Measure the person's flexibility by having them try the Sit and Reach box.
- Explain and demonstrate the three simple stretches and then count as the person did them.
- Re-measure the person's flexibility.
How to Make Sure You Have a Good Idea:
Your project will be a good one if it connects to something in real life, or answers a question that people want to know. Sophie knew that she and her teammates had to do stretching exercises all the time. By researching, she found out that lots of exercising, sports, and physical therapy programs use stretching exercises.
Do these exercises work? Are they helpful? Sophie's experiment was a good one because it answered a real-life question that affects a lot of people. Her experiment showed whether or not these are equally effective for young girls and adult women.
Rationale: Why Flexibility is Important
Flexibility is known to be a factor in health and fitness. Many exercise programs and physical fitness routines include stretching exercises to increase flexibility. Some research has indicated that flexibility increases after doing exercises, but do typical stretching exercises work the same way for adults and teenagers?
Practice Stretches Yourself
Problem and Hypothesis
Problem: Do stretching exercises improve flexibility in people, and if so, does it improve equally on female children and female adults?
Hypothesis: Female children’s flexibility will increase greater than female adults.
- Sit and Reach Box Materials (2 pieces of 12” x 12” wood, 2 pieces of 12” x 10” wood, 1 piece of 12” by 21” wood—all of which will be cut by a parent), wood glue, nails, hammer, and ruler with centimeter markings). Or you can buy a pre-made Sit and Reach Box from Amazon.
- Journal for recording Sit and Reach Results.
- Exercise Mat for doing stretches.
- Photos or videos of stretches.
- Video to demonstrate use of Sit and Reach Box.
Stretch One: Leg Crossover
Sit with legs extended. Cross left leg over the right at a 45-degree angle. Twist your torso to the right at a without causing pain. Hold for 15 seconds and come back to a resting position. Repeat with your other leg. Repeat the whole exercise two more times (3 times total).
Stretch Two: Leg Up
Lay on your back and with feet together. Hold one leg by the back of the thigh and slowly pull leg upward as far as possible without causing pain. Hold for ten seconds then relax. Hold for another ten seconds and relax. Repeat with the other leg. Repeat the whole exercise again two more times (3 times total).
Stretch Three: Bend Down on Outstretched Legs
Sitting on the mat, open your legs as far as possible without causing pain. Reach forward as far as you can comfortably. Hold for a count of ten then relax and repeat two more times. Repeat the whole exercise again two times, for three times in all.
Steps for Getting Ready
Obtain a Sit and Reach Box from school, purchase one on Amazon, or make your own, here's how:
- Use 3/4 inch plywood.
- Cut 6 pieces total: 2 pieces 12" by 12" for sides, 1 piece 12" x 21" for top, and 2 pieces 12'' by 10" for front and back.
- Attach using wood glue and nails or screws.
- Use a measuring tape on the top, or inscribe top in 1-centimeter gradations, with zero at the place subjects will place their feet.
- Prepare 15 parent permission slips, 15 Human Consent Forms, cover letters, and principal letters that will be sealed in an envelope with a return envelope included.
- The consent forms will be passed out to 15 7th grade female students at and 15 female adults (teachers and adult neighbors). In the next few days, the consent forms will be returned to the researcher.
- All subjects who return a consent form and agree to be part of the experiment will be tested. If fewer than 10 consent forms are returned from either teenagers or adults, then the experimenter will pass out additional forms until the minimum of 10 subjects in each group agrees to be tested.
- Each child and adult will be given a subject number to protect confidentiality. The tests will be conducted either at school and at the experimenter’s home. The location will be chosen that is most convenient for the test subject and which best allows for confidentiality.
Sit and Reach Measurement
- Take subjects one by one to an empty quiet room to conduct the test. To protect confidentiality and to keep others from knowing how the test subject is doing, no one else will be in the room during the test except the person conducting the experiment and adult supervisor.
- Say, “This is a Sit and Reach Box. I will show you a video on how to use this box.” Show subject video on the correct procedure to use a Sit and Reach box.
- Say, “Now I would like you to perform the sit and reach test.” Record results in centimeters.
- Say, “Now you will perform a series of 3 stretches. Be sure you do each movement slowly and comfortably and without pain. Explain and demonstrate the three stretches and count while the subject does all of the stretches.
- Say, “Now please perform the sit and reach test again.” Record results in centimeters.
- Say, “You have now finished the entire test.”
- Repeat steps 1-6 with each subject.
Table for Data
Average (total divided by 10)
- Record the data as the teenage girls and women do the flexibility tests before and after exercising. Find the average of the results from the teenage girls and adults.
- Make a bar graph to compare the stretch test before stretching for the adults and also for the children.
- Find the average for each group after the stretching exercises.
- Compare the “without stretch” results to the “after stretch results” for each group and see which group has a greater change.
Because the committee approving her proposal for the State competition was concerned about safety, Sophie decided to have all of her stretches done while sitting on the floor on a mat. In addition, she emphasized in her instructions that the test subject should not stretch until it was painful. She chose three exercises she was familiar with from her basketball team. The above video shows one of these stretches.
However, any stretching exercises could be chosen, and instead of doing three specific ones, you could have someone watch and follow a stretching routine such as the ones in the videos below.
Record your data on a table like the one above. Then you can take your data and turn it into a bar or line graph for your poster. Don't forget to put on some pictures of your experiment for your board also. What should you put in your conclusion? Here are some ideas:
Results: Tell what happened when you did your experiment. Compare the results of your data to the hypothesis. Tell whether you were correct in your guess and why you think that you got the results you did. Explain your results and if there is something that you think skewed them in a particular direction, talk about that too. For example, in Sophie's project, one of the adults was a dancer, who had a much greater flexibility than everyone else.
Give Ideas for Future Experiments: Real scientists know that one experiment doesn't answer all of their questions, so it is all right if you end up thinking that you needed to do other experiments to answer your questions. In your conclusion, you can talk about what you would do next.
In order to participate at State, Sophie had to write the following short abstract of her experimental hypothesis, procedure and results:
The purpose of the experiment was to study whether flexibility exercises increased flexibility as measured by a standard sit-and-reach test the same in teenage girls and adult women. The procedure of the experiment was to first measure the flexibility of each participant using a sit-and-reach test box. Next, the participants performed three standard stretching exercises designed to increase flexibility.Finally, the participants performed the sit-and-reach test again to see how much of an increase in flexibility they had.
The data showed that both female teenagers and adult women increased on average about 4 centimeters in their flexibility after stretching. The hypothesis was that female teenagers would increase more in flexibility than adult women. The data does not support the hypothesis. The results show that flexibility exercises on average increase flexibility in both female teenagers and adult women the same amount.
The conclusion is that standard flexibility exercises are equally effective for both teenage girls and adult women. The conclusion suggests that standard stretching exercises can be useful for both teenage girls and adult women to help them increase their flexibility.
Talking With Judges
One final tip is that you can make your experiment seem much more important and interesting if you can explain how your results translate into something important in the real world. For example, Sophie used the information in the videos above and below to talk about flexibility is important both for athletes and elderly people.
She explained that she wanted to test whether someone like her mother or grandmother could get as much benefit from the exercises as someone her age. The judges were interested and, in fact, said they would like the chance to test their own flexibility!