Corbett Prep Students Investigate
Their World at the Science Fair
Corbett Prep will send several student projects to the Hillsborough Regional STEM Science Fair in February.
Jan. 16, 2014 (TAMPA, Fla.) – Does sunscreen spray work better than shirts with SPF? Will acid eat away at aluminum nails? What light bulbs are the most energy efficient? Do mice really like cheese?
The spirit of inquiry abounded at the Science Fair at Corbett Preparatory School of IDS as students shared questions that had intrigued them as well as the answers they had uncovered. The results they found and the methods they applied impressed judges, teachers and fellow students, who visited to learn from their investigations.
Several projects move on from the school level to represent Corbett Prep at the Hillsborough Regional STEM Science Fair in February. Judges evaluated projects on-site in December and identified which ones would go on to compete at the regional fair.
“The judging experience is a strong confirmation of what is good about science education in our country,” said Science Fair judge Dr. Gina Almerico, Director of Program Review for The University of Tampa’s Department of Education. “The level of critical thinking and problem solving demonstrated by these children was remarkable. I attribute a lot of the success of the Science Fair to the teachers who facilitate the learning experience.”
Additional judging was provided by Dr. Mark Stewart, professor in the School of Geosciences at the University of South Florida, as well as the Corbett Prep Middle School science team.
Fifth graders are each expected to submit an individual project to the Corbett Prep Science Fair, held last month, and some third and fourth graders chose to pursue group or individual projects as well. Even Early and Upper Primary joined in with class projects showcasing their scientific explorations.
The Science Fair is a long-term project that requires students begin planning shortly after the first day of school. Fifth graders work together on a mini-project in class to help them learn the scientific process. For their own experiments, students choose any topic within the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fair rules and submit the purpose, hypothesis and variables to teachers. Teachers give them the go-ahead or offer suggestions to modify their ideas.
Michelle Hill, Intermediate Division Leader, said the students collect and measure data and draw conclusions, working at home and at school to ensure they communicate their findings well.
The fifth grade team also worked with technology teacher Matt Melnick, who taught them about creating data charts and graphs on the computer and also how to use Google Docs to make their work accessible anywhere.
Students are expected to keep a log throughout the process, and they write short research papers containing background material.
Many students used the project as a chance to explore their curiosity about the world surrounding them. Third grader Christopher Cantor wanted to find out which insects and animals live in different zones of his backyard, so he mapped out various microhabitats and tracked what he found there. Grayson Kornberg, a fifth grader, had wondered about sinkholes after hearing about them on the news and looked into whether the acidity of rain affected sinkhole formation.
The projects had some students thinking ahead as to how they could expand on what they had learned from their initial experiments. Camryn McClendon, a fifth grader, researched whether acidic, basic or neutral substances affected the mass of aluminum nails. The project was a lot of work, she said, but she was already considering the additional research she could do.
What would happen, she wondered, if she conducted the same experiment on fabric? She may uncover the answers next year. Every science fair offers a new opportunity for discovery.