Corbett Prep STEM Fair Inspires Inquiry in All Grades
Students took a scientific look at their interests to prepare for the school and regional STEM fair.
Jan. 7, 2016 (TAMPA, Fla.) – In third grade, Christopher Cantor explored the biodiversity of his backyard for the science fair at Corbett Preparatory School of IDS. In fourth grade, he looked at microorganisms in Lake Lipsey. For his fifth grade project, Christopher tackled a larger body of water, expanding his study to the Tampa Bay estuary.
Christopher examined microbial diversity in natural and restored areas of the estuary. A healthy level of microorganisms is ideal, he said, because it is the start of the food chain and supports other forms of life in the water.
Christopher shared his research at Corbett Prep’s annual STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fair. All fifth graders are expected to submit an individual project to the fair, and some younger students choose to pursue group or individual projects as well.
The long-term projects begin shortly after the first day of school with students asking questions about interests or hobbies. From there, the students take careful steps to form hypotheses, accumulate data and draw conclusions. They share their work with judges and parents, as well as fellow Corbett Prep students who visit the fair. Many classes from the East Side of campus browse projects and take notes on their clipboards as they tour the fair — perhaps uncovering ideas that will lead to their own science fair projects in the future.
Several projects qualified to represent Corbett Prep at the Hillsborough Regional STEM Fair in February. Judges drew from their expertise to evaluate projects on-site in December and identified which ones would go on to compete at the regional fair.
Corbett Prep STEM teacher John Palmer was one of the in-house judges and said he was impressed with the ideas students chose to research and credited the fifth-grade team for preparing the students well.
“The teachers have led the students to higher and deeper levels of thinking,” Palmer said.
Joining Palmer and the Middle School science team as judges were Wit Ostrenko, former president of MOSI, and Dr. Mark Stewart, professor emeritus in the School of Geosciences at the University of South Florida.
Judges examined projects for scientific organization, thoroughness, skill, originality and clarity. The diversity of topics reflected Corbett Prep students’ varied interests and personalities. Students tested whether cell phones distracted video game players in simulated driving games, which paper airplane design flew most effectively, what liquids promoted plant growth and whether the amount of fat affected the taste of cookies.
DaNia Brooks, a softball player, compared various types of softballs to see which would travel the farthest. Using a pitching machine to keep the throws consistent, she learned that compression makes a difference and that the most dense ball will have the best results.
For Alex Findlay, the projects have allowed him to learn more about scientific concepts that interested him. He researched buoyancy in third grade and friction in fourth. This year, the fifth grader chose solar energy, testing how far a solar-powered car could travel at different times of day. He enjoys the process of discovery during the science fair projects.
“I just like to find out new things about science,” Alex said.