Young scientists share what they learned

Thursday, May 4, 2006

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Bill Ryan⁄The Gazette
Rebecca Lane (far left), a fifth grader at Freedom Elementary School, does a demonstration on electrical current with third-grade teacher Carolene Will. Fifth-graders Lisa Hotchinson (above left) and Aryn Kestel,added water to a tube filled with dry ice to produce a gas that blew a cap off the tube during the school’s science fair last week.

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Can the sun cook a hot dog?

How long does it take for French fries to decay?

How does a cloud form?

These are just some of the questions that students at Freedom Elementary School have spent months investigating as part of the school’s annual science fair.

At least 70 students submitted projects for this year’s non-competitive fair, according to fourth grade teacher and faculty representative to the PTA, Ann Thompson, who organized the event.

‘‘We normally have about 80 students,” she said, pleased with the turnout for the school’s third fair in its 50-year history.

While participation is not a requirement and students do not earn a grade, they do receive a medal and T-shirt for their hard work.

‘‘They take pride in the T-shirt and medal — a lot of the kids wear them to school the next day and tell their classes what they did,” Thompson said. ‘‘It’s a great learning experience. I think they get into it and they get to go around and see other topics.”

And the topics could not be more diverse.

First-grader Tylerann Jahraus learned that Rice Krispies cereal dances best when introduced to static electricity from a balloon. Fourth-grader Elizabeth Messina learned that blue light helps plants grow better than natural light. Sabine Huber found that lima bean plants grow best with water, not beer, Coke or fertilizer.

Nearby, fourth-grader Priyanka Morgan sat patiently among the crowds of parents and students packed into the school’s gymnasium Thursday night. Wearing three golden medals around her neck, Morgan was obviously a veteran to the event.

‘‘This is my third year,” Morgan said, adding that her mom, a science teacher got her interested in the science fair. ‘‘I want o be good at science and get good scores in it.”

Morgan’s project, a test of what liquids are best at cleaning a penny, included just a little help from her mom, she admitted.

‘‘I took six cups — apple juice, Coke, laundry detergent, milk, orange juice and water — and dipped the penny in each to see if it would get brighter,” she said. ‘‘My hypothesis was incorrect. I thought the laundry detergent would clean it the best but orange juice and apple juice were better.”

Through more tests, Morgan found that the pH level in laundry detergent is highest and the levels of the orange and apple juice were more acidic.

A fascination with outer space inspired Alex Scheel’s project — Martian Dust.

‘‘I took sand and steel wool and water and let it sit in a cake pan,” the fourth grader said, pointing to a pile of burnt looking ingredients. ‘‘I studied how colors are made on Mars and learned that it’s produced by iron oxide.”

Scheel, who studied Jupiter storms last year, said she likes to learn about planets and wants to enter another project using her telescope next year.

Kindergartner Colin Rimel learned an important life-lesson from his project — seatbelts are an important safety tool.

‘‘I took an egg and put it in a toy car and crashed it into a wall,” Rimel beamed. ‘‘The eggs without the seatbelt cracked.”

Rimel conducted nine crashes with a safety belt and nine crashes without.

‘‘The seatbelt affected the crack,” he said. ‘‘I learned that you have to wear a seatbelt if you’re riding in a car so you don’t get hurt.”

Caroline Olson, a six-year-old first grader, took advantage of her love of candy for her project. To find out how many colors make the brilliant shades of red and green in Smarties, M&M’s and Pez, Olson dropped water on the top and watched drips of different colors come off onto filter paper.

‘‘I waited and the colors came out,” she said, swinging her water dropper around her three-ply display board. ‘‘I learned that different candies can be made from different colors [combinations]. These two are purple, but one uses brown to get purple.”

Olson’s mom, Michele, was glad that her daughter wanted to participate in this year’s fair.

‘‘It gets their brains thinking about science and the scientific procedure,” she said, adding that she wouldn’t remember participating in a science fair at such a young age. ‘‘It’s a thought process that will benefit them and she chose something that she could get involved with and understand.”

Kindergarten teacher Pam Hildenbrand who served as one of several guest scientists during the evening, gave Olson high marks for her project.

‘‘I asked her to explain what she did and she has graphs here, you can read her results,” Hildenbrand said, adding that the science fair is a great idea for students. ‘‘This teaches them poise and how to deal with the scientific process. And I get to give them a medal.”