A Science Odyssey Title 'Sending Messages' Title

Background and Introduction | Camper Survey Tests and Experiments | Sample Graphs of Survey Results | Compare your results with campers from the A Science Odyssey Camp-In

Camp-In Curriculum: Putting It Together -- Camper Survey

Background and Introduction

Pulling together pieces from the previous activities, campers will conduct a survey about themselves, organize their results, and communicate the data with each other. Surveys are used all the time to get a clearer image of a large amount of information. Computer databases are used to organize information and search for patterns. Telecommunications allows distant researchers to communicate and pool their data.

In this survey, we want to know more about the people in our group. People will be asked to observe a variety of traits and do some experiments, creating a database with their responses. Some of the traits are genetically inherited. Some traits are not considered genetic, but may change as people grow older or vary by where people live.

Before compiling and sharing the results, make some predictions. For example: Do more people have attached earlobes or unattached ear lobes? In the entire group, how many people do you think will have whorled fingerprints? Make a graph to see if any patterns emerge. Is hand dominance related to eye dominance? Are more boys sensitive to PTC taste than girls? Some sample graphs are shown at the bottom of this page (Sample Graphs of Survey Results).

Youngsters are interested in knowing about others who share their traits. How many members of the group were born in August? Share the results once they are compiled. Feel free to add or omit questions or adapt the survey to your needs.

Details, procedures, and materials for answering each specific question follow the survey questions.

Camper Survey Printout
Compare your results with campers from the A Science Odyssey Camp-In

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Camper Survey Tests and Experiments

Experiment: Hand Dominance

beans (such as dried kidney or navy beans)

Background for Instructors
Are you right handed or left handed? This seemingly simple question can be an interesting exercise in designing a scientific experiment. How do you decide if someone is left handed or right handed? You can ask people, but how do you know the answers are accurate? Encourage everyone to think scientifically and to learn more by experimenting and collecting evidence.


  • Develop and try tests that might determine hand dominance. For example:
    1. Write your name using your right hand and then your left hand. Compare the writing. Is one "better" than the other? How do you define "better?" Is this a fair test?
    2. Have someone scoop up some beans with a spoon using the right hand and then the left. Observe with which hand the person is better able complete the task.
    3. Toss a ball (carefully) and observe which hand the person uses to catch it.
  • Does each test yield the same results? Are there people who use both hands (ambidextrous)? How do the test results compare to people's expectations?

Experiment: Eye Dominance

index card with a small hole in the center

Boy holding card with a small hole

Background for Instructors
Right / left dominance is the tendency to favor one side of the body over the other. People generally have a dominant eye, meaning the brain chooses between images perceived by the right eye and the left eye. If neither eye is dominant, the image jumps from one eye to the other. There is no accepted correlation between hand dominance and eye dominance.


  • Hold an index card with a small hole in the center at arm's length. Look through the hole with both eyes at a distant object. Close one eye, then the other. The eye that keeps the object centered in the hole is the dominant eye.

Experiment: Tongue Rolling

Girl sticking out her curled tongue Boy sticking out his tongue


Background for Instructors
The ability for tongue rolling is generally accepted to be an inherited trait and can be tested easily by observation (and goofiness).


  • Ask each camper to try to roll the tip of his tongue into a circle.
  • Try other tongue "tricks." Can people flip their tongues upside down? Which way do people flip their tongues-to the left, right, or both? Is tongue flipping related to tongue rolling? (Can non-tongue rollers flip their tongue?) Can anyone touch the tip of his nose with his tongue?

Experiment: Ear Lobes

Attached ear lobe Unattached ear lobe


Background for Instructors
Ear lobe attachment is generally accepted to be an inherited trait and can be tested by observation.


  • Observe whether the bottom of a person's ear lobes are attached or unattached.
  • Observe and discuss the variation in this trait. Is it always clear whether someone has attached ear lobes? Does anyone have partially attached ear lobes?

Experiment: PTC Taste Test

PTC (phenylthiocarbamide) paper
control paper
mints (optional)

Background for Instructors
Sensitivity to the taste of the chemical PTC is inherited. Approximately 70% of the population senses a strong bitter taste while other people taste nothing.


  • Work in pairs. One person is the experimenter, the other is the subject. The experimenter takes one piece of PTC paper and one piece of control paper (no taste).
  • Ask the subject to taste one of the papers and record the response. Then offer the second paper and record the response. Ask the subject to compare the two tastes. Is the subject sensitive to PTC?
  • Reverse roles -- the subject becomes the experimenter and repeats the test.
  • Some people do experience a strong bitter taste, and may appreciate a strong, pleasant flavor such as a mint to counteract the bitter taste.

Experiment: Fingerprinting

Hand pencilling on paper hand smudging paper
Finger blotching clean paper

fingerprint patterns (included)
soft pencils
clear tape (wide "magic" tape works best)
hand lens
soapy water and paper towels (for washing up)

Background for Instructors
The tips of a person's fingers have small friction ridges on them. Along the ridges are small pores which secrete salt, water, and proteins. These substances along with oil that your fingers may pick up from your skin or hair will be deposited on things that you touch, leaving fingerprints. Your overall fingerprints are unique to you. As you grow, your fingerprints grow bigger but the pattern is always the same. Scientists classify fingerprints into several general patterns. The following is an easy procedure for making clear fingerprints to examine. You may want to involve volunteers from local law enforcement agencies in fingerprinting activities.


  • With a soft pencil make a dark spot a little bigger than a fingertip. Fill it in completely and go over it many times.
  • Prepare a piece of clear tape about 5 cm. (2 in.) long. Try to only touch the very ends of the tape, and hang it from the edge of a table or shelf.
  • Press a finger gently in the darkened pencil spot and roll it slightly from side to side.
  • Place the tape over the end of the finger with the pencil graphite on it and then carefully place the tape on the blank fingerprint template card.
  • Try to identify the fingerprint pattern by matching it to the samples on the chart.
  • Repeat the steps for the other fingers. Campers may need to go over the pencil spot.

Extension: Who dunit?

  • Divide into small groups of 5 to 10 campers.
  • Everyone in the group makes one fingerprint on a small card and writes her initials on the back.
  • Collect all the cards, mix them up, and put them in an envelope or cup.
  • Everyone makes a duplicate, recording the exact same fingerprint, (and same initials) on a second card.
  • Lay out the second set of fingerprints for everyone to see.
  • Pull one of the fingerprint cards from the first set and see if you can match it to one from the second set, without looking at the initials on the back.
Fingerprint Patterns Printout

Experiment: Reaction Time
2 guys holding a ruler vertically
ruler with centimeters marked
calculators (optional, for averaging results)

Background for Instructors
When you see a movement or hear a sound, your eyes and ears send electrical signals along nerve pathways to the visual and auditory centers of your brain. These centers then relay messages telling your muscles to react. What causes reaction time to change? Do you get faster with practice? It could be interesting to correlate reaction time with participants' age. Do children react faster or slower than adults?

Though it is difficult, try to make this a non-competitive activity. This can be a good opportunity to talk about variables and controls. How can you be sure everyone is starting from the same point? What if one person jerks her hand as she drops the ruler? How can you make this a "fair" experiment?

Procedure Close-up of hands holding the ruler

  • Work in pairs.
  • One partner holds a ruler vertically in an outstretched hand. The zero mark should be towards the ground.
  • The other person faces his partner and holds his hand outstretched at the very bottom of the ruler at the zero mark, but not touching it.
  • Without warning, the person holding the ruler releases it. Her partner tries to react quickly and grab the ruler. The centimeter mark at the place where the ruler is caught will be our measure of reaction time. The higher the centimeter mark the farther the ruler fell and the slower the person's reaction time.
  • Each person should repeat the experiment three times and take an average of his results.


  • Repeat the experiment but this time say "go" when you drop the ruler. Does the reaction time change with this cue?
  • Ask campers to close their eyes and try to catch the ruler using only a sound cue.
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Sample Graphs of Survey Results

Here are a few sample graphs. You may choose to compile camper survey results in other ways to show what patterns and differences emerge.

Pie Chart for females
Pie chart for males

Bar graph

Bar graph
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