SHERIDAN – More than a dozen students from Sheridan Public School entered a project in this year’s science fair, taking advantage of an opportunity to further their education by exploring their interests beyond the classroom.
The projects ranged in subject from hot air balloons and ultraviolet light rays to perpetual motion and the diffusion of water. As science teacher Shawn Regnerus explains, the process of formulating a project and completing it using the scientific method is just as important for students as whatever the results of their experiment may be.
“Science is about experimenting. It’s about understanding the world around you, it’s about having a question and then methodically answering that question,” Regnerus said Thursday afternoon after most of the students had already left school for the day.
Students where allowed to design their own project and complete it outside of their class time.
“Most of them just did it out of personal interest, because they enjoy it,” Regnerus said. “This is above and beyond what they do in the classroom.”
Projects were judged by three community members based on clarity, creativity, skill, thoroughness and scientific thought. Students were awarded points for distinctiveness and originality of their project, as well as scientific relevance, execution of the scientific method and the visual presentation of the experiment.
Superintendent Kim Harding said the reward for kids who entered projects for this year’s science fair lies in the opportunity for them to learn more about an area of interest to them.
“They have to go out and do their own thing, instead of the teacher presenting it and giving them the pieces,” Harding said. “They have to think on their own and put it together, think through the process and do some analysis.”
Regnerus was particularly impressed with fifth grade student Mox Lee’s experiment on what makes a hot air balloon rise.
“What I liked best about this one was that the fact that he tried two or three different methods, and the first one didn’t work, and so he figured out why the first one didn’t work, changed it, tried it again, still didn’t work, tried it again,” he said. “So it took him a bunch of different tries, and the thought process that he went through to get from the first unsuccessful attempt to the final successful attempt is what makes it really cool.”
Fifth grade student Joree Hokanson walked through the other projects after showing her second place experiment, which examined what causes the sky to look blue. When asked what her favorite part about participating in the science fair was, she couldn’t hide the broad smile that slowly crept across her face.
“Doing the experiments like this one,” she said. “You shine the light in the milk water and it turns into blue when you turn off the light.”
Hokanson enjoys her science class, learning about things like radiation, magnetism and kinetic energy along with her classmates. When asked what other projects she’s got up her sleeve, a light visibly goes on inside her head.
“Next year I might be doing ‘How do cats purr?’,” she pondered. “I don’t know anything about it that much yet, but…”
While she may still have years of scientific study ahead of her, Joree Hokanson is old enough to understand the value of participating in something like the science fair.
“One, you learn a lot more, and you can learn more with doing fun things, without just having it to be around school and research,” she said.
Regnerus adds on to what Hokanson already knows about making the most of an opportunity to learn something new.
“They get this understanding that science isn’t just facts in a book. It’s actually a process, it’s actually something that you can do to understand the world around you,” he said. “Its really cool to see kids do that on their own.”