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Science Takes Center Stage At St. Bridget School

February 19, 2011 by John Rook

Jonathan Buscarello jumped to attention as soon as someone approached his small station set up in the cafeteria in St. Bridget School.
Buscarello, a 7th grader at the school, was surrounded by weights, a skate board, and a large cardboard display filled with different data and explanation sheets.
“I tried to do everything right,” explained Buscarello. “I recorded my data over two weeks and I think I did a good job.”
The experiment was set to show how quickly a certain weight would travel from a certain height. To test his theory that the heaviest weight would travel the fastest, Buscarello attached different sized dumbbells to a skateboard and placed the board on a long strip of wood. Testing different elevations, Buscarello would let the skateboard go and record how quickly it would take for it to reach the bottom.
In the end, the young, budding scientist proved his hypothesis correct: a 10-pound weight traveled 31 feet in 9.5 seconds.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Buscarello. “I really enjoyed it. It was fun to see my hypothesis proved.”
The weight/speed experiment was one of dozens on display last week, on Feb. 7, as the school held its annual Science Fair. Students from all grade levels choose a project and work on the experiments over a period of a month. Last Monday, the young scientists held court in the school's cafeteria, cramming in to explain what they had found, and how they had found it.
“We began the process around Christmas,” explained Kerry Martens, science teacher at St. Bridget. “The students had to pick a project that was testable. It is really something that incorporates a lot of different skills.”
While all students were included in the project, only those in grades six through eight were asked to present their findings in the cafeteria. Students in the lower levels presented their findings to their classmates.
The middle school-aged students, however, were judged on their methods and conclusions by a team of scientists who volunteered their time last week to review each experiment and determine which were the best. As the students sat expectantly, the judges made their way around the room, stopping at each station and asking detailed questions about the science behind the student data. The best experiments in seventh and eighth grades were then announced.
schools-DSC_0029.JPGMartens explained that since so much was involved in the project, it allowed students to hone a variety of skills. Public speaking was a major part of the presentation, as students had to clearly and effectively communicate their findings to professionals in the field of science. Research was also incorporated into the project, as was the ability to create cardboard displays that would help communicate the process taken during the experiment.
“It helps with writing skills, organization skills, and a lot of other things,” explained Martens. “It is very valuable for them when they move on.”
However, the meat of the project remains the science, as students were asked to either pick their desired experiment or come up with an original idea. Once approved by Martens and other teachers, it was up to the students to come up with the solutions.
“They did everything,” he said. “We might have modified the experiment a little bit here and there, but they did the work themselves.”
Towards the front of the room sat Cara Walsh, a seventh grader who had decided to explore how much wax certain types and size candles burn when lit for an hour. In front of Walsh's display board sat a group of different candles, and Walsh explained how she had originally believed that the smaller candles would burn the quickest, and the most, in an hour.
“That wasn't the case,” she said, pointing to some of the bigger candles, which had burnt more wax in that time. “The tapper candles also burned a lot of wax.”
“I really had fun, and the candles smelled great,” said Walsh, with a large smile, when asked about the process of experimentation. “With science, you get to do something different, something you don't usually do in class.”
Martens expressed his belief that the value of such projects is to allow students to experience science in a hands-on environment, instead of simply reading about science in a text book, or watching it done by a teacher in a classroom.
“The kids are having a great time and really enjoying themselves,” said Martens. “It is a way to get them interested and excited about science at a young age.”

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