Sparking the scientific curiosity of students at St. Leo
“I like getting to do a different project every year – finding new things you haven’t learned before,” said St. Leo eighth-grader Sophia Sarrantonio, who has been doing projects for five years.
“I’m grateful that we do this,” she added, because what she’s learning now will help her in high school science classes and beyond.
As part of their science fair experience, students present to judges, who are professionals with real world experience in science-related career fields such as engineering and nursing.
These working scientists become a window so students can see “things that happen in the classroom happen outside of the classroom too,” said St. Leo science teacher Tracy Borth.
“And it helps (our students) question what they see outside of the classroom,” she added.
Now a pediatric nurse, Molly Dawson said doing science projects while a student at St. Leo helped to create and then develop her love of science, and the importance of evidence-based research. She described the projects as an opportunity to help build a student’s interest in science.
“Science is fun,” Dawson often tells students in her role as a judge of their projects. “You just have to learn how to enjoy it by doing things that you’re interested in.” That’s what helped her find a passion for science – and eventually nursing.
Students in kindergarten through second grade do a class project, third-graders do small group projects (three or four students depending on class size), fourth- and fifth-graders do independent projects, and six-, seventh- and eighth-grade students are required to do more, Borth said.
Middle school students are responsible for doing scientific research and lab reports explaining their work, while also learning to make their project display boards appealing to the eye, she said.
Eighth-graders get to do science projects delving into human behavior and psychology, which she said are areas that seem to always interest them.
“They want to see how people work, and what makes them tick and why,” explained Borth. Sophia’s “Look and Listen” science project explored whether children are better auditory or visual learners.
Her hypothesis that children will learn better if they see a picture of an animal rather than hearing its name was proven correct from her results testing 17 kindergarteners. But she said having a larger pool of students would have given her more provable results.
Borth said chemistry and physics were two of the more popular areas of science explored by students at this year’s fair, which concluded with awards being presented.