Science fair highlights youngsters' ingenuity

May 01, 1994|By JoAnne C. Broadwater | JoAnne C. Broadwater,Special to The Sun

To the students at Norrisville Elementary School in Harford County, there was nothing abstract about the science they were experimenting with last week.

Theories of electricity, light and magnetism may have been at work here, but what the young science students saw was a handmade doorbell they could buzz, a cardboard periscope they could peer through and a shoebox camera that took real photos.

An erupting volcano, an orangutan house and dozens of other experiments and research projects helped bring science to life for the students as they shared the results of their endeavors at an all-day science fair Thursday.

"It's important for kids to . . . get involved in projects like this as a natural way to develop and nurture their interest in science," said William Hunter, supervisor of science for the Harford County public school system.

"The event in Norrisville was noncompetitive, reflecting a growing trend among schools to hold science days without the traditional judging," he said. "Instead of a contest-like atmosphere, each participant receives a ribbon for his display and a written evaluation of his work.

"We're getting away from the scenario where you have winners and losers," he said. "The chance to display their work for others to see is a way of rewarding them for their interest."

Mr. Hunter was one of a handful of Harford County educators who visited the science fair to evaluate the students' work. He was joined by Charles Crue, a science teacher for the county, and Joseph Oswald, teacher specialist in science.

"The children have done a super job," Mr. Oswald said. "All you have to do is watch the students lining up to look at different projects and you can see that this is going to foster more enthusiasm, more curiosity, more science."

"The important thing is that it's hands on," added Mr. Crue. "And this is a format where they can use their math, English, art and science to show what they are learning in the classroom and on their own for themselves."

North Harford Middle School science teachers Greg Kachur and Bill DeRose also stopped by to look at the projects.

"You can feel their enthusiasm," Mr. Kachur said. "You can feel science happening here."

The kindergartners and first- and second-graders presented class projects, including studies of endangered species, predictions and observations about the growth of a potato plant, measurements of temperature changes in objects heated by the sun, and records of the daily behavior of a classroom hamster.

About 50 students in all grades shared individual research projects they had done at home. Some wanted to know whether fire needs oxygen to burn, if Harford County has acid rain, how ammunition works, how seeds grow in the rain forest and how barometric pressure is used to make weather predictions.

"Isn't that a cool one over there?" said 7-year-old Liam Gettier as he watched third-grader Steven Benton flip switches and turn a crank to operate his electromagnetic pickup truck.

Robbie Barry, 9, determined the conditions in which mold would grow; his 6-year-old sister, Alison, observed the germination of mustard seeds. Nicholas Schaeffer, 9, built his own flashlight with a paper roll, aluminum foil, paper, tape, two batteries and a flashlight bulb.

Fourth-grader Tristan Coomer watched the chemical reactions when he put seashells, chicken bones and eggs in vinegar. Classmate Amanda Hale made rainbows with a prism and studied the colors. And third-grade student Alice Waters observed several different liquids and measured evaporation.

"The science fair is pretty cool because everybody starts asking you a bunch of questions about your science project and it's fun to answer them," said second-grader Adam Broadwater, who prepared a fossil replica and a dinosaur bone model for a research project about fossils.

"I'm very pleased by the complexity of the projects," said school Principal Richard Russell. "I think that the critiques will be really valuable to the children. It's very important to them, what people think about their work."

"I think it's a nice experience for the kids," said third-grade teacher Kristin Koss. "I hope they'll get an excitement for science."

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