Let's test packing material!

We've all played with packing material. Come on. Be honest. You know the stuff. Remember the little plastic bubble wrap that's so fun to pop. That's the stuff!

But there are lot's more kinds of material people pack with. We're going to test a few in this science fair project. Don't worry...

...this'll be almost as fun as popping those little plastic bubbles!

Time - Give yourself about one week to do this one.

Stuff List

You'll need...

1. Packing material (popped popcorn, styrofoam peanuts, fiberfill, tissue paper, shredded newspaper, bubble wrap, etc.)
2. Cookies or crackers
3. Four boxes (Shoeboxes of the same size and construction work nicely.)
4. Tape measure
5. Packing tape
6. Four sandwich bags
7. Markers
8. Pencil or pen
9. Paper
10. Graph paper
11. Camera
12. Cardboard for display (three sided)
13. Glue
14. Paper
15. Computer (optional)


We have to be scientists today if this thing is going to work. And a good scientist always asks questions. So...

...let's ask a question about packing material. This question is only for reference so we can get our feel for the project.

We'll ask our really important question a little bit later. Let's consider different packing materials...

What kind of packing materials are there and what are some advantages and disadvantages for each kind?

Research this question thoroughly. Find all you can about different kinds of packing material. Ask an adult, or get on the internet. Find out about how they're made, which kinds are recyclable, and whick ones are most environmentally friendly. That should give you enough information to ask the important question. This is also called your hypothesis...

Which packing material is best?

This is a good question because we can try it out in a room in our house. But don't try it yet. We need to answer our important question first!

Let's do that now.

What do you think will happen?

Which kind of packing material will work better?

Write it down on a piece of paper. Don't change it until you see what the experiment does first. Remember...

...we call this guess our hypothesis. It's the most important part of our project!

Now it's time to get your stuff from the list above. Let's move to the next step.


Now comes the fun part...

...let's experiment!

Try it with an empty box first to see what happens. We call this the control group.

Place about two (2) to four (4) crackers in each of your four sandwich bags. Fill each shoe box half-full with packing material and place one bag of crackers into each one. At this point, they should look something like this...


Fill the rest of the boxes with packing material making sure each box has about the same amount. Clamp the lids on nice and tight and tape them securely shut. Make sure to take pictures of every step.

Find places of varying height in your house. Don't climb too high though...don't want to scare mom! Good places might be a chair, a stool, a kitchen counter top, a bookshelf and the top of your refigerator. Make sure you have at least four places and that each place is noticeably higher then the one before.

Place a box on the lowest level you're using in the experiment. Gently push the box off the edge and let it fall. Repeat this step for each of the boxes. It should look something like this...


Record what happens to the crackers in each box (whole, big pieces, small pieces, etc.) on a piece of paper so you can remember it for later. Repeat this process for each level making sure to do it in order of height from shortest to tallest.

And, as always...

...don't forget to take lots of pictures especially action shots of the boxes falling. Pictures show you did your own work.

Also, don't forget to write down your information on your paper. And of course...

Be careful!

Don't ever climb on anything taller than a couple feet. If you must climb on anything, always have adult supervision!



...let's make the chart!

At the top label this chart, "Number of Crackers Showing Damage."

Down the side put the different places and their heights. Across the top put each of the different packing material you used.

It should look something like this...


For more info about making charts and graphs click here.

It's time to tell what you've noticed. Write a report about what you saw.

You should include...

1. What you guessed about the packing materials.
2. What you did with the packing materials.
3. Which kind protected the best.
4. If your guess was correct about the packing material.

Be careful to obey all the school rules for your science fair report. One or two paragraphs for each grade level will do if you weren't given how long it should be. Be detailed as well. But make it neat.


Now you get to make the display!

Carefully put three pieces of cardboard together so it looks like this...

Blank display!

If you want more information about how to put together and arrange displays click here.

You can buy displays at many retail stores as well. However you do it, make sure you follow science fair rules!

Now, on a piece of paper neatly write your important question and your guess. If you would like, type it. You might get style points!

Now, just like you did your important question, write (or type) your supply list on a separate piece of paper.

Paste your guess, supply list and report onto your display board along with any pictures you might have taken. Make sure you label each so the judges know what is what. Making sure everything looks good is important!

If you want to get some ideas for your display we have some examples for you. Just click here for examples of displays and other helpful hints to make your project shine!

Try playing with some of the display ideas you see. You don't have to use the exact ones we use. Make them fun! Be creative!

And don't forget to name your project at the top of the display board. It's best to use your important question as the title.

You may want to purchase stencils to make cutouts of letters. Or you may purchase already made letters at many retail stores.

Whatever you do, have fun!

And please...



...pop the bubble wrap outside! We don't want your parents mad at us!

Have fun with your packing material!

Had enough of those little plastic bubbles. Click here to see more projects!

Not thrilled with packing material? Click here to go home and see more options

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