By Les Pierce
Attending a lecture or reading a chapter in a textbook are the learning experiences that students usually encounter in the classroom. However, acquiring education through hands-on activity usually results in knowledge acquired that will last a lifetime, and the experience can be fun. Some 90 students working on 45 projects embarked on such an adventure at the annual Lincroft Elementary School Science Fair.
The fair was open to third, fourth, and fifth grade pupils. Participants worked on their projects at home and many partnered with others to pursue their experiments. The students were provided guidelines to include five components within their presentation: (1) a hypothesis statement, (2) list of materials used, (3) description of the procedure, (4) disclosure of data collected, and (5) a conclusion, including a determination if the hypothesis was correct. On October 27, the projects were brought to the school and put on display for one evening and parents, grandparents, and siblings were invited to attend. Students were on hand to explain particulars of their project and answer questions.
One project that drew much attention was “Balloon Rocket.” The demonstration occupied nearly 30 feet of linear space and featured high velocity projectiles – likely reasons why it was considered a must-see by attendees. Fifth grade students Sabrina Kirk, Jennifer Schuster, and Kelly Todhunter collaborated on the effort. The team sought to prove Newton’s third law that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. They supported this by launching “straw rockets” powered by released air pressure along a 28-foot-long string.
Another eye-catching display was a project titled “Colorful Rainbow Flowers,” which was conceived by Samantha Dugan and Vanessa Merlino. Using white cut flowers and colored water, the students proved that the flower’s bloom would acquire the color. Samantha explained, “Plants need water to survive water from its roots up throughout the rest of the plant. The way the water moves is known as capillary action. The plant’s stem sucks up the water, similar to drinking through a straw.” Vanessa added, “The water travels and makes it way up to the flower. After about a day, the flowers were fully colored.” Several beautiful flowers adorned the display as visual proof of their allegation.
Third grade student Maximilian Miele Oster sought to demonstrate a physical reaction based on releasing carbon dioxide bubbles as a form of energy via his project “Mentos Soda Fountain.” To achieve his goal, he constructed a rather elaborate soda fountain dispenser using materials that included PVC pipe, hex nuts, string, neodymium magnets, and plastic cups. He utilized Mentos candy and Diet Coke to create the desired action. Max pointed out that when these come together, chemicals like potassium benzoate and aspartame in the Diet Coke react with the gelatin and gum arabic in the Mentos. When he launched the demo, a gushing soda fountain dispensed the liquid in six cups simultaneously.
Another lesson learned at the fair was to be careful. That was learned firsthand by fifth grade student Mickey Voitle, who was demonstrating his project on energy transfer. To illustrate kinetic energy, he dropped a basketball to the ground with a tennis ball on top. When both balls fell, apparently all of the energy of the basketball transferred to the tennis ball, causing it to careen across the room and inspiring several people to duck and cover. This resulted in spontaneous laughter, but Mickey was not prepared to explain that phenomenon.
Lincroft PTA co-chair Karen Whitaker said, “This year, the Lincroft School students showed enthusiasm for science that amazed all of us. They demonstrated projects about the environment, human health, chemistry, and physics that drew students, teachers, and parents in and resulted in lots of oohs, aahs, smiles, and laughs. Our goal is for the students to complete a student-driven project and see that scientific inquiry and learning is fun. We achieved our goal, based on the enthusiasm and energy in the room that day.” The Science Fair was co-chaired by Lincroft PTA members Karen Whitaker and Deirdre Blasucci.