55 Best Science Experiments for High School Labs and Science Fairs
The cool thing about high school science experiments and projects is that kids are old enough to tackle some pretty amazing concepts. Some science experiments for high school are just advanced versions of simpler projects they did when they were younger, with detailed calculations or fewer instructions. Other projects involve fire, chemicals, or other materials they couldn’t use before.
Many of these science experiments for high school are intended for classroom labs, but most can be adapted to become science fair projects too. Just consider variables that you can change up, like materials or other parameters. That changes a classroom lab into a true scientific method experiment!
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When it comes to biology, science experiments for high school students usually bring dissection to mind. But there are plenty of other useful labs and hands-on projects for teens to try. Here are some of our favorites.
1. Mash potatoes to learn about catalase
Catalase is found in nearly all living cells, protecting them from oxidative damage. Try this lab to isolate catalase from potatoes using hydrogen peroxide.
Learn more: Potato Catalase/Practical Biology
2. Extract DNA from a strawberry
You don’t need a lot of supplies to perform this experiment, but it’s impressive nonetheless. Turn this into a science fair project by trying it with other fruits and vegetables too.
Learn more: Strawberry DNA/Numbers to Neurons
3. Re-create Mendel’s pea plant experiment
Gregor Mendel’s pea plant experiments were some of the first to explore inherited traits and genetics. Re-create his cross-pollination experiments with a variety of pea plants you’ve grown yourself.
Learn more: Mendel’s Pea Plants/Love to Know
4. Make plants move with light
By high school age, kids know that many plants move toward sunlight, a process known as phototropism. So science experiments for high school students on this topic need to introduce variables into the process, like covering seedling parts with different materials to see the effects.
Learn more: Phototropism/Science Buddies
5. Test the five-second rule
We’d all like to know the answer to this one: Is it really safe to eat food you’ve dropped on the floor? Design and conduct an experiment to find out (although we think we might already know the answer).
6. Taste foods to find your threshold for sour, sweet, and bitter
The sense of taste is fascinating—what some people think is delicious, others just can’t stand. Try this experiment to test subjects’ taste perceptions and thresholds using a series of diluted solutions.
Learn more: Taste Threshold/Science Buddies
7. Complete a field survey
Teaching students to conduct field surveys opens up the possibility of lots of different science experiments for high school. Show them how to observe an area over time, record their findings, and analyze the results.
Learn more: Field Survey/Love to Know
8. See the effects of antibiotics on bacteria
Bacteria can be divided into two groups: gram-positive and gram-negative. In this experiment, students first determine the two groups, then try the effects of various antibiotics on them. You can get a gram stain kit, bacillus cereus and rodospirillum rubrum cultures, and antibiotic discs from Home Science Tools.
Learn more: Antibiotics Project/Home Science Tools
9. Witness the carbon cycle in action
We know that plants take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen, right? Well, this experiment helps you prove that and see the effect light has on the process.
Learn more: Carbon Cycle/Science Lessons That Rock
10. Look for cell mitosis in an onion
Cell mitosis (division) is actually easy to see in action when you look at onion root tips under a microscope. Students will be amazed to see science theory become science reality right before their eyes.
11. Test the effects of disinfectants
Grow bacteria in a petri dish along with paper disks soaked in various antiseptics and disinfectants. You’ll be able to see which ones effectively inhibit bacteria growth.
Learn more: Antiseptics and Disinfectants/Amy Brown Science
12. Investigate the efficacy of types of fertilizer
Let’s spice things up in the botanical kitchen! Mix up some “recipes” for your students’ plants by experimenting with different types of fertilizer and see which one they devour the most.
Learn more: Best Fertilizer/Education.com
13. Explore the impact of genetic modification on seeds
Let’s go green and see what happens when we pit our crops against some weeds! Will genetically modified plants come out on top or will the weeds reign supreme? Let’s find out in this exciting biotech and plant challenge!
Learn more: Genetically Modified Seeds/Science Buddies
Perhaps no class is better suited to science experiments for high school kids than chemistry. Bunsen burners, beakers and test tubes, and the possibility of (controlled) explosions? Students will love it!
14. Watch a beating heart made of gallium
This is one of those science demos that’s so cool to see in action. An electrochemical reaction causes a blob of liquid metal to oscillate like a beating heart!
Learn more: Gallium Demo/Science Notes
15. Break apart covalent bonds
Break the covalent bond of H2O into H and O with this simple experiment. You only need simple supplies for this one.
Learn more: Covalent Bonds/Teaching Without Chairs
16. Measure the calories in various foods
How do scientists determine the number of calories in your favorite foods? Build your own calorimeter and find out! This kit from Home Science Tools has all the supplies you’ll need.
Learn more: DIY Calorimeter/Science Buddies
17. Detect latent fingerprints
Forensic science is engrossing and can lead to important career opportunities too. Explore the chemistry needed to detect latent (invisible) fingerprints, just like they do for crime scenes!
Learn more: Fingerprints/HubPages
18. Use Alka-Seltzer to explore reaction rate
Tweak this basic concept to create a variety of science experiments for high school students. Change the temperature, surface area, pressure, and more to see how reaction rates change.
Learn more: Reaction Rate/Numbers to Neurons
19. Determine whether sports drinks provide more electrolytes than OJ
Are those pricey sports drinks really worth it? Try this experiment to find out. You’ll need some special equipment for this one; buy a complete kit at Home Science Tools.
Learn more: Electrolytes Experiment/Science Buddies
20. Extract bismuth from Pepto-Bismol
Bismuth is a really cool metal with a rainbow sheen. It’s also an ingredient in Pepto-Bismol, and by carefully following the procedures at the link, you can isolate a chunk of this amazing heavy metal.
Learn more: Extracting Bismuth/Popular Science
21. Turn flames into a rainbow
You’ll need to get your hands on a few different chemicals for this experiment, but the wow factor will make it worth the effort! (Click through to the YouTube link for an explanation of how this one works.)
22. Test and sort elements
Elements in the periodic table are grouped by metals, nonmetals, and metalloids. But how do chemists determine where each element belongs? This ready-to-go science kit contains the materials you need to experiment and find out.
Learn more: Metals, Nonmetals, and Metalloids/Ward’s Science
23. Discover the size of a mole
The mole is a key concept in chemistry, so it’s important to ensure students really understand it. This experiment uses simple materials like salt and chalk to make an abstract concept more concrete.
Learn more: How Big Is a Mole?/Amy Brown Science
24. Cook up candy to learn mole and molecule calculations
This edible experiment lets students make their own peppermint hard candy while they calculate mass, moles, molecules, and formula weights. Sweet!
Learn more: Candy Chemistry/Dunigan Science TpT
25. Make soap to understand saponification
Take a closer look at an everyday item: soap! Students use oils and other ingredients to make their own soap, learning about esters and saponification.
Learn more: Saponification/Chemistry Solutions TpT
26. Uncover the secrets of evaporation
This systematic and classic example of changing one variable at a time by creating several mini-projects will have your high schoolers engaged in a high-level review of the classic scientific method.
Learn more: Evaporation/Science Projects
27. Investigate the principles of pyrotechnics
Let’s dive into the explosive world of fireworks and discover the colorful secrets behind these dazzling pyrotechnic displays! Your students will be ecstatic to use party poppers (and sparklers, if you’re feeling really daring) to explore the science behind fireworks.
Learn more: How Fireworks Work/Royal Society of Chemistry
When you think of physics science experiments for high school, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the classic build-a-bridge. But there are plenty of other ways for teens to get hands-on with physics concepts. Here are some to try.
28. Remove the air in a DIY vacuum chamber
You can use a vacuum chamber to do lots of cool experiments, but a ready-made one can be expensive. Try this project to make your own with basic supplies.
Learn more: Vacuum Chamber/Instructables
29. Put together a mini Tesla coil
Looking for a simple but showy high school science fair project? Build your own mini Tesla coil and wow the crowd!
30. Boil water in a paper cup
Logic tells us we shouldn’t set a paper cup over a heat source, right? Yet it’s actually possible to boil water in a paper cup without burning the cup up! Learn about heat transfer and thermal conductivity with this experiment. Go deeper by trying other liquids like honey to see what happens.
31. Blast music using magnets
We spend a lot of time telling teens to turn down their music, so they’ll appreciate the chance to turn it up for once! Using strong magnets and an amplifier (both available on Amazon), plus a few other supplies, they’ll build a speaker and measure how the magnets affect the volume.
Learn more: Paper Speaker/Science Buddies
32. Construct a light bulb
Emulate Edison and build your own simple light bulb! You can turn this into a science fair project by experimenting with different types of materials for filaments.
33. Measure the speed of light—with your microwave
Grab an egg and head to your microwave for this surprisingly simple experiment! By measuring the distance between cooked portions of egg whites, you’ll be able to calculate the wavelength of the microwaves in your oven, and in turn, the speed of light.
Learn more: Microwave Speed of Light/Science Buddies
34. Generate a Lichtenberg figure
See electricity in action when you generate and capture a Lichtenberg figure with polyethylene sheets, wood, or even acrylic and toner. Change the electrical intensity and materials to see what types of patterns you can create.
Learn more: Lichtenberg Figure/Science Notes
35. Build your own Newton’s Cradle
Newton’s Cradle demonstrates the concept of momentum—and it’s really fun to play with! Challenge students to design and build their own, experimenting with different materials or changing up the number of balls to see how it affects momentum.
36. Explore the power of friction with sticky note pads
Ever try to pull a piece of paper out of the middle of a big stack? It’s harder than you think it would be! That’s due to the power of friction. In this experiment, students interleave the sheets of two sticky note pads, then measure how much weight it takes to pull them apart. The results are astonishing!
Learn more: Sticky Notes Friction/Science Buddies
37. Bounce balls to explore stored energy and energy transfer
Learn about potential and kinetic energy by bouncing balls and measuring their heights on each rebound. This is one of those classic physics science experiments for high school that students are sure to enjoy!
Learn more: Rebound Experiment/Science Buddies
38. Build a cloud chamber to prove background radiation
Ready to dip your toe into particle physics? Learn about background radiation and build a cloud chamber to prove the existence of muons.
Learn more: Background Radiation/Science Buddies
39. Slide into kinetic friction
Students will investigate kinetic friction and its effects on the speed of a rolling object by giving the objects a little push and watching them fly, on surfaces both smooth and rough. Stay tuned to see which texture wins the race!
40. Harness the power of air drag
Who can make the slowest descent? Students will use the power of drag to create a design that takes its sweet time falling to the ground. They’ll be encouraged to tinker and tweak until they have the ultimate sky-sailing machine.
41. Magnetize a motor
Magnets lend themselves as a helpful material in many a science experiment. Your students will explore the properties of magnetism with any one of these five experiments using magnets. They’ll even learn the basics of Fleming’s left-hand rule.
Learn more: Simple Electric Motor/School Science Experiments
42. Explore interference and diffraction
Investigate the physics of light and optics using CDs and DVDs. Though both of these optical objects might be quickly becoming a thing of the past, your students can utilize their diffraction patterns to explore the science behind optics.
Learn more: Science Buddies
Engineering involves the hands-on application of multiple types of science. Teens with an interest in designing and building will especially enjoy these STEM challenge science experiments for high school. They’re all terrific for science fairs too.
43. Re-create Da Vinci’s flying machine
Da Vinci sketched several models of “flying machines” and hoped to soar through the sky. Do some research into his models and try to reconstruct one of your own.
Learn more: Da Vinci Flying Machine/Student Savvy
44. Peer into an infinity mirror
Optical illusions are mesmerizing, but they also help teach kids about a variety of science concepts. Design and build a mirror that seems to reflect lights on and on forever. The supplies are basic, but the impact is major!
Learn more: Infinity Mirror/Science Buddies
45. Design a heart-rate monitor
Smartwatches are ubiquitous these days, so pretty much anyone can wear a heart-rate monitor on their wrist. But can you build your own? It takes some specialized supplies, but they’re not hard to track down. You can buy items like an Arduino LilyPad Board on Amazon.
Learn more: Heart Rate Monitor/Science Buddies
46. Race 3D printed cars
3D printers are a marvel of the modern era, and budding engineers should definitely learn to use them. Use Tinkercad or a similar program to design and print race cars that can support a defined weight, then see which can roll the fastest! (No 3D printer in your STEM lab? Check the local library: Many of them have 3D printers available for patrons to use.)
Learn more: 3D Printed Cars/Instructables
47. Launch a model rocket
Bottle rockets are another one of those classic science experiments for high school classes, and for good reason! The engineering involved in designing and launching a rocket capable of carrying a specified payload involves the practical application of all sorts of concepts. Plus, it’s fun!
Learn more: Bottle Rockets/Science Buddies
48. Grow veggies in a hydroponic garden
Hydroponics is the gardening wave of the future, making it easy to grow plants anywhere with minimal soil required. For a science fair engineering challenge, design and construct your own hydroponic garden capable of growing vegetables to feed a family. This model is just one possible option.
Learn more: Hydroponics/Instructables
49. Grab items with a mechanical claw
Delve into robotics with this engineering project! This kit includes all the materials you need, with complete video instructions.
Learn more: Hydraulic Claw/KiwiCo
50. Play volleyball with machines
Challenge your students to design and build machines that will volley a Ping-Pong ball back and forth, using only basic materials. They can even compare their results to those from students around the world!
Learn more: Volleyball Challenge/Science Buddies
51. Construct a crystal radio
Return to the good old days and build a radio from scratch! This makes a cool science fair project if you experiment with different types of materials for the antenna. It takes some specialized equipment, but fortunately, Home Science Tools has an all-in-one kit for this project.
Learn more: Crystal Radio/SciToys
52. Build a burglar alarm
The challenge? Set up a system to alert you when someone has broken into your house or classroom. This can take any form students can dream up, and you can customize this STEM high school science experiment for multiple skill levels. Keep it simple with an alarm that makes a sound that can be heard from a specified distance. Or kick it up a notch and require the alarm system to send a notification to a cell phone, like the project at the link.
Learn more: Intruder Alarm/Instructables
53. Walk across a plastic bottle bridge
Balsa wood bridges are OK, but this plastic bottle bridge is really impressive! In fact, students can build all sorts of structures using the concept detailed at the link. It’s the ultimate upcycled STEM challenge!
Learn more: TrussFab Structures/Instructables
54. Unleash the power of geothermal energy
This experiment is all about tapping into the fiery fury deep underground within the Earth and harnessing it for clean, renewable power. It will definitely spark your students’ interest and exploration of geothermal energy.
Learn more: Geothermal Energy/Science Buddies
55. Construct a Rube Goldberg machine
In this activity, students will unleash their creativity as they design and build their very own contraptions that perform a simple task in the most complicated way possible. Your students will be using the engineering design process, problem-solving skills, and teamwork to create truly unique machines.
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