Westwood Intermediate’s science fair fosters learning

The excitement factor hit an all-time high last week when students from Westwood Intermediate School and K-2 Spanish Immersion Program students displayed their self-crafted projects for Westwood’s biennial science fair.

Wyatt Johnson, front to back, Antonio Buzzelli and Evan Poppe check out fifth-grader Sam Fulwider’s (not pictured) project on hydraulics and how they work.

Wyatt Johnson, front to back, Antonio Buzzelli and Evan Poppe check out fifth-grader Sam Fulwider’s (not pictured) project on hydraulics and how they work.

Using a mix of vinegar, baking soda, dish-washing liquid and water, students simulated volcanic eruptions with spewing lava. They held replica planets made of polystyrene foam in their hands and they built a wooden hydraulics system with moving parts to name a few.

About 220 students, nearly three times the number of the 80 students who participated two years ago in the biennial event, entered the non-competitive fair. Of those students, 33 were from the immersion program.

This was the first time immersion students participated in the science fair at Westwood where the program is currently housed. The remainder and bulk of the fair entrants were fourth-and fifth-graders.

She loves the energy

“I love the energy that this brings to the students,” said Jan Burda, fifth-grade teacher and science curriculum lead at the school. Burda spoke in the gymnasium over a cacophony of sounds of excited voices of students explaining their projects to their school mates.

“It’s the excitement, curiosity and the inquiry,” she said. “I think it creates good family bonding, a time when parents share their expertise with their child… . There’s parents sharing as well as parents learning.”

Fourth-graders Peyton Chapman and Andrew Marthaler teamed to create an experiment on why our bodies need calcium. They soaked a hard-boiled egg in vinegar. The vinegar represented junk foods. The egg shells, calcium. After a time, the shells weakened and tore away from the eggs. The eggs, themselves, turned rubbery.

Their experiment proved “if you don’t have calcium, our bones will start to shrink and bend,” Andrew said.

Fourth-grader Alex Knutsen created a display on Neptune’s Lost Moon, Pluto. Yes, that Pluto formerly known as the ninth planet in our solar system, which has since been demoted to a “dwarf” planet.

Alex was particularly interested in learning that astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930, died in 1997. When spacecraft New Horizons was launched to Pluto in January of 2006, Tombaugh’s ashes were placed aboard the space craft.

Mission leader S. Alan Stern confirmed Tombaugh’s ashes had been placed aboard the space probe, Alex wrote in a facts section on a large display board defining his project. Alex also learned the space craft is slated for a Pluto fly-by in 2015.

Fossil study

Sam Kennedy, a first-grader in the Spanish Immersion Program, focused on fossils for his display.

“Fossils can be plants, animals and shells and footprints,” Sam said.

Students also presented and took questions about their displays and experiments from Westwood Middle School science honor students as part of the science fair.

In addition to a student-viewing in the afternoon, the Westwood scientists presented their projects for family members the evening of March 27.

The fair was noncompetitive. Every student received a certificate of participation.

“We want to keep it as an appreciation for learning science,” Burda said.

Elyse Kaner is at elyse.kaner@ecm-inc.com


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