All too often, science is thought of as lofty concepts with no connection to real life. Models help to make scientific concepts concrete, tangible and memorable. Towards that end, here are a few great model project ideas, spanning several branches of science.
All life employs several basic molecules, even the largest of which are too small to see in detail. Models are the perfect way to bring biological molecules to life. A double-helix model of DNA is a classic, but why not try something less common? Proteins are a perfect choice for modeling. Since a protein is a chain of amino acids linked together, you can create a pile of linkable amino acid pieces, allowing you to swap them out to model any protein you desire. An ideal way to accomplish this would be to make cardboard rectangles to represent the basic amino acid structure, with Velcro pieces to allow linkages at the amine and carboxylic acid ends. Another Velcro piece at the top would allow you to attach small cardboard "R" groups, so you can have any number of the 20 amino acids at will. If you are an advanced student, you might develop the model further to show hydrogen bonding and secondary structure within the proteins.
Even though they really do exist, magnetic levitating trains still seem like science fiction. You can make your own miniature working Maglev model with lots of magnets and a little ingenuity. Getting the train to "float" is only half the battle. After that, you have to decide how to keep it over the track as it moves.
Perhaps your environmental science side wants to shine. This model will really make a splash. Create a miniature version of a sustainable, urban fish farm. You'll need a small aquarium complete with goldfish, a plastic tub (or flowerpot) with a drain hole in the bottom, some soil, plants, a pump and hose(s). Obviously the plants go in the dirt in the pot or tub. The pump spreads dirty water from the fish tank over the soil, where it waters the plants and fertilizes them with fish waste. The water (filtered by the soil) exits the drain, and back into the tank it goes. The fish gets clean water, the plants grow, and it is a closed loop. For bonus points, choose a fish/plant combination so that the fish can actually eat the plant you've grown.
It's easy to learn how to make a plant cell model. And the best part? Your finished product will be edible.
It's easy to learn how to make a model of the Earth's layers. This project will help kids understand the amazing things that go on each day far beneath our feet.