Nearly 300 students had the opportunity to put their textbook knowledge to the test last week during the Mitford School science fair.
The projects ranged from testing how colours of food affect a person’s perception of its flavour (by Rylee Montgomery and Katarina Johnston) to the way gender may affect which colours your eyes see best (by Maddy Schwindt).
Other projects applied basic mechanical lessons to produce machine prototypes. One of which involved a popsicle-stick drawbridge using a series of wires and tubes to create a hydraulic system, which opened and closed the bridge, created by Kaysa Werner and Liah Wagner.
With a similar use of science, Emilie Wiebe and Aydann Johansson created a hydraulic arm out of cardboard, which could both pick up and move small plush toys.
“Our experiment was to test how much weight it could hold and what different shapes,” Wiebe said.
Conner Stewart and Liam Townsend created a diorama that demonstrated the need for wetlands.
The boys crafted a model of two identical streams set up on a slope. They ran a mixture of water and a coloured solution to demonstrate the mix of chemicals in ground water and streams flowing into rivers. However, throughout the left side stream, paper towels represented the presence of wetlands and demonstrated the filtering effects of riparian areas. The side with the filters had fewer chemicals land in the “river” than the right side stream without any filters.
“Wetlands are purifiers for the water so it would soak up the chemicals and try to prevent it from getting into the river,” Stewart said. “For this one – the wetlands – we poured 500 ml (of solvent representing chemicals) and 150 ml made it into the river. For this one without the wetlands, we poured 500 ml and 270 ml made it into the river.”
The pair spent a total of 10 hours over two weekends building their project.
Beyond it being a right of passage to participate in a middle school science fair, the event also carried with it an air of innovation and a nod to a modern teaching mode of readying kids for real-life problem solving.
“We wanted to put on a school-wide science fair this year so we could get the whole school involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) related activities. We really want to focus on building connections for hands on learning and (as) it relates to the future, like career connections,” said Scott Roen, one of the Grade 8 teachers. “Rather than sit in the classroom, taking notes, we can actually connect it to potential things they can do in the future and get them excited about it.”
For many Cochrane students, Grade 8 is the “springboard” to high school, as Roen puts it.
Students were given free rein with their project ideas as long as it reflected what they were currently learning.
“It related to the curriculum but when they get to choose, it’s authentic. It gives them buy-in. Rather than me always having to push them, push them to do it, they just want to do it because they are excited about it. They’re really innovative,” Roen said. “I was amazed by what a lot of the students can do. So many of them did such good quality work.”