Greenfield enjoyed its annual Science Fair on May 14, with students proudly displaying well-constructed experiments for their peers, staff and family members to see. The fair has been a part of Greenfield Elementary since May of 2003 and has now been organized by Science Teacher James Phillips for the last 12 years.
“Students in grades three to five are eligible for the fair,” says Phillips, “Two students are chosen per classroom by their teacher who show an interest in science and are capable of independent work.” Because much of the projects the students create are done outside of the classroom, teachers are particular about choosing students that are able to keep on task while at home.”
Phillips breaks down the preparation for the event into a few meetings designed to plan how their own projects will be made. “During our first few meetings, students learn about what makes a good science fair project. I try to focus them more on an experiment style project rather than a demonstration”, he said. “I want the students to know the scientific method and I teach them how it works.”
“Our second meeting is usually when students get started on their projects because by that time they usually have a question they want to try to answer and a hypothesis about potential results.” The last meeting is when Phillips allows students to begin working on their boards for the presentation. Students then type up their projects for two-weeks in class, at home, and even during free time given their teacher’s permission.
While the end result is likely to turn out successful, building up to an involved elementary school event like this is sure to have its challenges. “The most difficult part for students is narrowing down a topic and creating a question that they can have a measurable outcome for. They are so inquisitive that they want to do 10 projects,” Phillips said.
“I think the other difficult part is what happens when something goes wrong in their experiment and they don't know how to fix it,” he continued, “They think they have failed in some way. I reassure them that it is not a failure but a result. It may be a result they did not expect, but that is ok. Scientists are constantly changing their experiments because of the unexpected. Once they hear that, they always are reinvigorated and buckle down and get to work.”
The ideas for experiments ranged as widely as the students themselves. Some of those experiments included: Does hand sanitizer work better than soap? What kind of fuel optimizes bottle rocket launch? Is Miracle Grow really a miracle and more. One student’s project, Ashton Nelson, focused on the speed of Wi-Fi signals and what slows them down.
“The interesting thing about it is that he doesn’t have internet at home. He just wanted to learn about it,” said proud grandmother Jennifer Smith, “It was so fun watching him test things over and over and over again. At the last minute he didn’t have a modem to use, so he ran down to Baldwin Telecom and asked them for a modem he could use to display. It was just really cool to see.”
It is true that these projects are no small feat – especially for the students that put them all together. Keeping interests in learning high is something that Phillips and Greenfield Elementary strive for with events like the Science Fair. “The smiles and excitement on their faces always tells me they had fun,” Phillips said, “There are only two things I want them to take from this experience: Did they have fun? and Did they learn something new? That makes all of the difference in the world.”