BY GAYLE JONES
Special to The Sun
Questions ranging from growing patterns, absorbency of diapers, bird feeding habits and more were answered in this year’s annual Science Fair at St. Mary’s Episcopal School.
Led by science instructor Patricia Brown, third- through fifth-graders utilized the five-step scientific method to: ask the question; form a hypothesis; perform the experiment and collect data; analyze the data; and publish a conclusion. Middle school students used the Engineering Design Process of looking at a problem to be solved, identifying the need, the target user and the justification.
The student then specified the design requirements, which state the important characteristics the solution such as aesthetics, cost effectiveness, elegance and robustness. A prototype was designed and redesigned, refining and improving the product, until design requirements were met.
“It is very exciting as a science instructor to see students take risks and ask the right questions. In both the hypothesis based experiments and the engineering prototypes, students took ownership of their learning opportunities because they were the ones designing their experiments,” Brown said. “In just about every experiment, students not only answered their original questions, but through the experimental process came up with more questions to test. What more could you ask for as a science instructor?”
Budding scientists like third-grader Caleb Kalcich, hypothesized that hand soap and sanitizer will stop mold growth because both products are used to clean germs off hands.
His project was a single trial experiment lasting 19 days. He utilized several experimental instruments including bread slices, plastic bags, 65 percent hand sanitizer, dish soap, a toaster, a magnifying glass, a dark cabinet and more to test his hypothesis.
After the testing period and describing the types of bread mold on white bread in his project, Kalcich learned that a multitude of organisms exist that can cause illness in humans but that the use of hand sanitizer and frequent hand washing helps to kill the organisms that potentially can cause illness.
Fifth-grader Kalli Launhardt researched the effects of watching television before and after homework.
“I just wanted to know when the best time to do homework is,” Kalli said.
Her research centered on two individuals, a third grader and an adult, completing a multiplication test for 1 minute before and after watching two television episodes of either weather or children’s programs. She noted variables such as the person’s level of energy, their interest in the particular program watched and their age.
Launhardt was surprised with the results stating, “I was really surprised to find out that they did better after watching TV. I guess people (in this case) were more relaxed after watching TV and did better on the tests.”
Brown, the school’s science instructor since 2008, said, “The Science Fair is a great opportunity for students who are interested in science to take part in scientific research, as well as an opportunity to recognize those who excel as student-scientists.”
She went on to say that the event is also a way to encourage students, parents and teachers to take a more active interest in the study of science. It is a time to highlight the scientific process and the fundamentals of science and encourage excellence in science and engineering.