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Classroom Happenings: Grade 5 Science Fair

The Steward School
The science of discovery
Steward fifth graders know that when spring arrives, it signals the budding of flowers and plants … and the budding of hypotheses, too. Springtime is when our young discoverers delve into research projects and work through the scientific method (observation, hypothesis, experiment, analysis, and conclusion). Their work culminates in the Grade 5 Science Fair. This year’s Science Fair took place on May 17 in the Bryan Innovation Lab.  

Grade 5 Teacher Ron Coles, who spearheads the annual event, said that students have six weeks to work on their projects at home. Inspired by a limitless range of scientific experiments, Spartans tap into their creative side and also develop their time-management, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills. 

“Students are allowed to engage in any experiments they want as long as they can apply our five-step scientific method,” said Mr. Coles. “They usually come in with some pretty lofty ideas for projects, but we’re able to narrow things down to make them challenging yet achievable. The most enjoyable projects are those that reach an unexpected conclusion that takes us all by surprise. Seeing their faces light up as they realize the ‘why’ behind their results is the best part of the process.”

Pop Star
When Lochy Voeks ’30 was trying to decide what type of experiment to take on, an idea popped into her head: popcorn! It’s one of her favorite foods, so Lochy decided to start with the question: What kind of popcorn pops fastest and leaves the least amount of unpopped kernels? Over the course of several weeks, she tested (and nibbled on!) natural, butter-flavor, and kettle-corn popcorn.

Lochy hypothesized that butter-flavor popcorn would yield the most kernels popped at the end of one minute and forty seconds (“the perfect amount of time to pop the popcorn without burning it,” she explained). “Over the course of three rounds of popping,” she said, “I got lots of important information.” Lochy charted her results, including the mean and median of unpopped kernels for each flavor. “My hypothesis was true,” she said proudly. “The butter-flavored popcorn had the lowest recurring amount of unpopped kernels.” 

Having a Blast
Aaron Galpern ’30 experimented with Coke and Mentos. Aaron had read that dropping a minty Mentos candy into a two-liter bottle of Coke would result in a high, powerful blast, and he wondered: How high will the blast be if I drop in two Mentos? What about three? Aaron hypothesized that dropping two Mentos into the Coke would yield the tallest fountain. He videotaped his experiments, which revealed that dropping three Mentos into the Coke yielded the highest blast. Mr. Coles noted, “This is perfectly okay! Having false conclusions is an important part of the scientific process.”

Boundless Creativity
Like all Spartans, our young scientists are learning in an environment that encourages innovative ways of thinking.

“I’m really proud of the wide variety of experiments students chose this year,” said Mr. Coles. “They did a great job of staying on top of their long-term experiments while handling all of the other expectations of a busy spring. This is one of our most exciting days of the year in fifth grade!”


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