Our Voices for Nov. 10, 2012

Parents of school-age children are all too familiar with science fair project deadlines and helping their children showcase discoveries on tri-fold poster boards wrought with brightly colored stencils, fancy diagrams, 3-D models and the scientific method.

Not to be taken lightly, science fair projects can be worth from 100 to 150 points or more toward students’ science grades.

Schools including Scotlandville Magnet and Baton Rouge Magnet High even post science fair requirements, points and due dates on their school’s websites.

Many school gymnasiums are geared up too, preparing to display rows of science discoveries ranging from volcanic eruptions, electrical circuit demonstrations, mini hover crafts made from CDs, to plant growth investigations and battery-powered LEGO robots.

Does all of the effort and work make an impact on students’ interest in science? Several students and teachers agreed that it can.

Scottriana Walker, 11, a student at McKinley Middle Magnet School, is a science fair junkie and an aspiring cardiologist. Her interest developed two years ago when she researched and submitted a science fair project using a model of a heart she’d made from a coconut. This year, she perfected her project and used a pumping heart model to demonstrate the functions of a heart.

“It’s a great opportunity for me (science fair), and it will help me in the future,” Scottriana said.

Science fair projects and presentations help raise students’ level of excitement for science fields, said McKinley Middle teacher Tiffany Miles. Miles and her science students presented projects at the Baton Rouge STEM Expo at Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School in October. “They have knowledge they can bring to class and demonstrate to other students,” Miles said.

Kenilworth science teacher Elkhan Akhundov agreed: “It’s wonderful to teach kids that love science. They are engaged about becoming scientists in the future.”

Science fair projects also encourage students to question, investigate and make conclusions on subjects within a range of sciences including chemistry, biology, physics and astronomy.

Daniel Ashley, 11, a student at Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School, selected a physics experiment using a homopolar motor to demonstrate how magnets and electricity affect how fast a motor can spin. His model was also on display at his school’s STEM Expo in October.

“My favorite subject is science,” said Ashley, whose project placed fourth in the STEM Expo.

My own elementary-age children turned in their projects this past week. My son built a simple circuit and investigated the effects of pencil resistors on a electrical circuit. My oldest daughter tested how well hard and soft water types produce soap suds.

I’m sure many parents have shared my feelings of relief after delivering the final board and model to their children’s schools. Science fair projects require planning and execution and several trips to the store for supplies. During the process, unexpected events happen, including computer printer breakdowns, paper jams and crashes. The project reminds me that it’s all worth the effort and hustle.

My kids have far more fun investigating their projects and doing experiments than they do watching TV or playing video games. They also discover how important a part science has in their everyday lives.

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer for The Advocate. She can be reached at chantewriter@hotmail.com.