Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

February 6, 2014

Elementary science fair teaches academic and life skills

By Boris Ladwig Daily News
Greensburg Daily News

---- — GREENSBURG – From the strength of paper towels to the power of electromagnets and the flight path of footballs, Greensburg Elementary School students displayed hundreds of projects at this week’s Science Fair.

To complete their projects, the children had to employ their competence in academic fields such as math and English, but school officials pointed out that the projects also taught students life skills such as team work, dedication and deadlines.

Students displayed their projects this week in the school’s gymnasiums, where teachers, parents and fellow students could walk through the aisles to learn about topics including how many tablespoons of salt it takes to make a golf ball float in water or whether the type of soda affects the size of the explosion when one adds a Mentos candy. (Answer: It does. Coca Cola produced the biggest effect, followed by Dr. Pepper and Pepsi). Another experiment asked whether the type of battery in an electromagnet affects its strength. (Answer: yes.)

Each of the projects required students to ask a question, form a hypothesis, conduct experiments and then explain the results and conclusion in a short paper. Students also took photos and generated charts that they displayed on large pieces of cardboard.

Linda Kramer, the school’s science lab teacher, said the science fair aimed to teach children about the scientific method, to ask a question and then figure out an experiment to test a hypothesis.

The students often worked in teams, had to conduct research with the help of Linda Mills, the school’s librarian, had to collect and analyze data and use computers to perform calculations and prepare presentations, Kramer said.

Isabelle Morris, 10, and Seirra Stapleton, 11, combined on a project to determine which of three brands of paper towel is the strongest.

During the experiment phase, they held a sheet of the paper towel at its edges, squirted water on it and then placed coins on it, one by one, until the paper ripped.

Isabelle and Seirra’s experiment showed that on average, the Sparkle brand ripped after 95 coins, the Bounty brand after 129 coins, and the Great Value brand after 248 coins.

Isabelle said she and her partner took turns holding the sheets of paper and placing the coins.

“I like when it ripped,” said Seirra.

Both said they were surprised by the experiment’s outcome, as they had expected the brand name product to hold up the best.

Both Seirra and Isabelle won a first-place award.

Kramer said that the projects also taught students about communicating with their partners and with others when they had to explain their experiments.

The projects also imparted lessons about perseverance.

“Things don’t always work out the way you want them to,” Kramer said.

Fifth-grade teacher Mitch Sefton lauded Kramer, Mills and the kids for their efforts and said the fair allowed students to gain valuable lessons and to spend time working on the projects with parents and fellow students.

And, he said, the skills that the projects required — asking questions, setting and meeting deadlines, working hard to accomplish a task — will help the students later in school and beyond.

“Definitely skills that they can use in the future,” Sefton said.

Contact: Boris Ladwig 812-663-3111 x7401; boris.ladwig@greensburgdailynews.com