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Alaska Science Camps, Fairs & Experiments

ANKN is a resource for compiling and exchanging information related to Alaska Native knowledge systems and ways of knowing. We are pleased to create and distribute a variety of publications that assist Native people, government agencies, educators and the general public in gaining access to the knowledge base that Alaska Natives have acquired through cumulative experience over millennia.


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Ideas for science projects are endless. Science inquiry involves exploring and adventure. There is no better place for science exploration than villages as there are so many questions that have not been asked or answered by scientists. A village project could be the first of its kind.

This book shows students how to pick and develop an exciting project.




Science projects start with questions.

  • Why does this happen?
  • Why did my grandpa do it that way?
  • What is the reason for shaping it like that?
  • What material is the most durable for this purpose?
  • Etc.

The question should come from your personal life, from a problem, from something you have wondered about for a while.

A science project is exploring the world of how and why.


There are three types of projects:

  • Collections
  • Demonstrations
  • Experiments


Lower grades do collections. Students learn about shapes, sizes, how something feels, what is different, what is similar. They learn how to accurately observe, compare and record data. Collections might be of leaves, rocks, shells, types of nails, pictures, etc. Organize the collection in the way people can easily understand. Record when and where samples were collected. See the list for suggested collections.


Demonstrations show how an activity is done, how something is made or operated. Middle grades often do demonstrations. A demonstration might be of how to make a deadfall trap, throw a spear with an atlatl, reload bullets, render seal oil, sharpen tools to work with wood, store berries, etc.

A student should identify the science principles involved in a demonstration. A deadfall trap involves understanding friction and gravity, kinetic and potential energy, as well as animals eating habits. Throwing a spear with an atlatl involves u uderstanding levers, wind resistance, balance, and inertia. Rendering seal oil involves understanding heat and chemical reactions as well as facts about seals. 


A good experiment is doing a comparison using a fair test. We could compare which size shot is most effective in hunting geese, #2 or #4. We could compare seal oil with vegetable oil in a lamp. We could compare one fishing lure against another when hooking through the ice.

A good experiment is simply a fair test. If I test my shotgun with #2 shot on a windy day and #4 shot on a calm day, that isn't a fair test. If I use a big wick in the seal oil lamp and a small one in the vegetable oil lamp, that isn't a fair test. If I use one fishing lure in shallow water and the other lure in deep water, that also isn't a fair test. 

Observe and Think Experiments

While we would like to control the experiment, often the variables are far out of our control, like the amount of snowfall in a winter, the activity of the northern lights, or the conditions for a good berry year. We must observe, identify what is influencing the outcome, record, compare, and think about our data in order to come to a good scientific conclusion.

Is there a connection between the height of the fireweed in September and the amount of snow the following winter? We control none of the variables. We must observe and measure accurately for several years and then think about the data before coming to a conclusion.

Will the river flood this year? What are the conditions? We control none of them. We must measure, record, compare, and think about the facts. We need the data from several years before we can come to a conclusion to the question. Knowing the answer could save much trouble for a village.

Finding and Developing a Science Fair Project

Examples of "Observe and Think" Projects

200+ Ideas for Science Fairs!

Traditional Lighting


Traditional Firemaking


Fishing with Lures

Rabbit Snares

Spearing Fish and the Refraction of Light

Chill of the Campfire

Solution vs Suspension

Seals & Beaver, Floating & Sinking


Selecting a Birch Tree

Spruce & Other Roots

Spruce Gum

Spear Throwing

Berry Pickers

Drum Frames


Book Cover

© 2004 Alaska Native Knowledge Network. All rights reserved.

A partner with the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0086194. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


Camps as an Environment for Science & Culture

Culturally Relevant Science Fairs



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Last modified April 12, 2011