MARCO ISLAND — Science Fair 2011 was held at Tommie Barfield Elementary and proved that students internalized the components of the scientific method, which is a way to ask and answer scientific questions by making observations and doing experiments.
The scientific method includes posing a question, doing background research, constructing a hypothesis and testing it through experimentation, collecting and analyzing data, drawing a conclusion and communicating results.
With projects and experiments on display for parents and the community, May 20, students proudly explained their questions and conclusions with projects that interested them personally.
Fourth grade students, Jackson O’Shea and Jacob Warren, through their “Milk vs. Water” experiment learned that although “Milk may do a body good” plants prefer water.
“The nutrients in milk don’t work out well for plants because lactose which is a form of sugar isn’t needed by the plants. They have their own way to make food using the process of photosynthesis so they don’t need any extra sugar because they create their own sugar,” O’Shea explained.
“But, but unlike plants, people sure like extra sugar. Plants make sugar and so do we, but the difference is that we have to go to the store and buy the food before we make it.”
After conducting their experiments, fourth graders Walfre Recinos and Hector Alarcon noted that plants have feelings just like people, and that talking to the plants kindly and making sure they are in a safe happy environment makes a difference and helps them to reach their full potential.
“The students saw that extra water doesn’t hurt either. When you breathe (talk) you exhale carbon dioxide and relative humidity of 100 percent because of water diffusing across the moist surface of breathing passages and alveoli,” said their teacher, Christine Farhat.
Farhat’s classes focused on experiments that explored plant growth with regards to the analysis of soil, water and environmental conditions.
Other students hypothesized about sandy soil versus potting soil and found that it’s better to grow watermelon in sandy soil and save money by using backyard soil rather than purchasing potting soil.
Farhat said that students were able to pull in the observations they’ve been making all year on campus and around the island and that charting their data and graphing the results gave them a snapshot of a supported unsupported hypothesis.
“Most importantly, students learned to be coastal caretakers. Now they truly understand the effects of healthy water and a healthy environment, they have become lifelong advocates of our special little island,” she added.
Mabel Pena said that through the individualized projects and experiments students were provided a means to become inquisitive and seek answers to their questions. She prepared students for the fair by creating an environment with opportunities to explore, investigate, and ask questions.
“I also encouraged lots of predicting, observing and documentation of data. I believe the most important aspects of a science class are to be aware and ask ‘Why,’” she said.
Pam Baldwin’s fourth graders learned valuable lessons such as not giving up on anything relating to science because science is everlasting and that patience is the key to discovery.
“I taught that all great inventions began as a thought turned into a question, followed by experiments to test, retest, and validate concepts, and that even the smallest experiment can lead to huge discoveries,” she said.
“Some questions that turned into experiments included whether or not identical twins shared the same fingerprints, which substances could most lower pH levels in rain water, whether vitamins help or hinder bacteria growth and discovering which thing eradicates the most bacteria: soap and water or hand sanitizer.”
Grade three students in Deborah Lambert’s class prepared a power point presentation to go along with their experiment. The topics varied by student interest and ranged from the importance of earthworms, the way in which volcanoes erupt, the identification of conductors and insulators and the creation of their own fossils.
In Nancy Garousi’s third grade, students spent the past three months using the scientific method to test products that children would use or purchase. She said they compared generic brand items to brand names to determine if brand named products were worth the extra money.
“The students tested out crayons, markers, popcorn, toothpaste and six other products. Students used background knowledge, advertisements and cost to formulate a hypothesis about each product,” Garousi said.
“Then they completed testing on the products and gathered data. After analyzing it, they determined which brand of a product was the best based on a particular quality.”
The experiments tied into a thematic consumer unit of study used with a grant provided by the Education Foundation, she said.
Second graders in Judy Albero’s class grew and observed butterflies from tiny larvae and made predictions about what would happen, made observations as they occurred, and wrote and drew about the butterfly lifecycle.
Albero said they visited the Butterfly Garden in Naples Botanical Gardens to see the different stages of butterfly lifecycles.
“In class, the students observed a chrysalis fall from the place it was attached and land on the floor of our butterfly habitat. We watched it carefully for many days and then predicted that it would not survive to become a butterfly,” she said.
“However, our prediction was wrong and we were glad to see it change and become a beautiful Painted Lady Butterfly.”
Students in Diane Jerrett’s first grade class worked on whole class projects. She said they became more aware and more actively engaged in science and realized it is all around them.
Andrea Noll’s kindergarten students learned how matter can change with a fun experiment that changed milk into ice cream. They predicted the outcome, then took turns shaking and rolling Ziploc bags containing chocolate milk, ice and rock salt until the milk froze and the ice melted.
“Students noted the changes to a frozen state and then happily ate the ‘changed matter.’ I believe the greatest lessons children learned were that all ideas should be respected and that not all experiments produce a successful result,” said Noll.
“To be a good scientist, the children need to be safe, observant and not give up after the first try.”