Eagle Creek Elementary celebrates learning
August 27, 2008 · Updated 4:45 PM
Students have fun while learning math, science
ARLINGTON First-grader Jeffrey Garretts entry in Eagle Creek Elementarys annual Celebration of Science and Math fair, a presentation on sharks, was dominated by a nine-foot-long paper replica of a great white shark that hung from overhead, but his tables collection of nearly 20 checked-out library books on sharks was equally expansive.
We must have checked out all the books on sharks in Arlington, laughed Suzanne Garrett, Jeffreys mother. Jeffrey reported that sharks all have five gills and three rows of teeth each, before he deemed the great white his favorite shark for being able to swim a mile a minute. He said the horn shark is the weirdest and funniest looking shark, along with the hammerhead.
The fair attracted nearly twice its usual number of participants, which typically inspires no more than 80 Eagle Creek Elementary students to perform and report on experiments, with more than 150 kindergarten through fifth-grade students. Parents, teachers and high school students volunteered to critique the grade-schoolers projects and presentations Feb. 15.
The levels of participation by grade level ranged from half a dozen kindergarten students to almost 50 fifth-grade students, just as the projects included both classic favorites and new experiments, many inspired by Internet videos and TV shows such as MythBusters.
Fourth-grader Billy Jackson was one of several students fascinated by growing a crystal salt garden, just as fellow fourth-grader Jefferson Hoskinson joined several other students in simulating an erupting volcano. As Hoskinson mopped up his lava flow of baking soda, dish soap, vinegar and food coloring, he compared the fizzing concoction that overflowed from his miniature mountain to the buildup of gases and pressure that blasts through the earth.
The latest fad in fizzing eruptions was showcased for the first time at the fair by two pairs of students, who performed the Coke and Mentos experiment. Shay King and Jake Herring used strings and tubes to drop Mentos candies into two-liter bottles of Coke, while fifth-graders Nate Lewis and Sawyer Williams employed a modified funnel. All four students eventually recreated the results theyd seen in Internet videos, in which the Mentos caused the Coke to shoot out the tops of the bottles in streams as high as six feet.
Lewis and Williams learned that the eruptions resulted from the carbon dioxide in the soda expanding through the porous surfaces of the candy. As Lewis observed, The water molecules of the soda are so strongly attracted to one another that the carbon dioxide, from the carbonation of the water at the factory, is left with no room to expand. The two students then likened the difference between the water molecules of Coke and the porous surface of Mentos to that of a tightly woven piece of tissue versus a loose-knit mesh bag, since the Mentos and the mesh both have holes that allow things to escape.
Fifth-graders Amy Kratz and Sarah Ross borrowed their idea from TV instead of the Internet, by playing MythBusters to the common botanical belief that talking to plants makes them grow more. The 16 bean plants were all planted precisely two weeks and two days before the fair, and were all given equal amounts of soil, sunlight and water in the interim, but they were divided into four groups of four plants each, which received either nice talk, mean talk, no talking at all, or rock music.
Kratz and Ross theorized that mean talk would prove most healthy to the plants, since shouting and other verbal taunting would enrich the plants with more carbon dioxide from their own lungs. However, their tracking of the plants growth showed no significant difference between mean talk and nice talk. The plants that received no talking at all were slightly smaller, they concluded.
They had dinkier stems, Kratz said.
Fifth-grader Justin Mealey required parental supervision to put together his project safely, but his enthusiasm for electrical experiments has never been hindered by his blindness. He presented the results of his battery tests in Braille, and demonstrated how hed determined the power and endurance of various brands of AA batteries, by hooking them up to an odometer and tracking how many miles per hour they could reach, and for how long.
Fifth-graders Olivia Mattson and Carley Petersen determined that flame consumes air at a much more dramatic rate than plants, when they created simple but visibly effective vacuums. They placed different sizes of clear glass jars over different sizes of lit candles. Since the candles were sitting in a cookie pan half-filled with food coloring-dyed water, the water rose up into the jars as the candles burned, because their flames were sucking up the air inside of the contained space of the jars.
Fifth-graders Colten Wold and Kaleb Bryson were interested in bridges before this years fair. Their research on suspension bridges turned them into advocates for architecture. As Bryson pulled clips of articles from the Internet, Wold had an occasional helping hand from his dad as he constructed an eight-foot-long model of a suspension bridge, out of wood and cable from Arlington Hardware and Lumber.
When Bryson pointed to a historic picture of Galloping Gerdie, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge that collapsed just four months after it opened in 1940, Wold said the reason was that Gerdie didnt allow the winds through.
It wouldnt let the wind go above, below or through, and instead, it went against the wind, said Wold who considered this mistake a lesson learned by Gerdies successors.
Suspension bridges are very big, and they can survive high winds and even earthquakes, because theyre very strong, Wold said. We should build more of them.
Ultimately, many students echoed the assessments of Lewis and Williams.
Our experiment wasnt as hard as we thought it would be, Williams said.
Understanding it was more difficult, Lewis said.
According to fair coordinator Kim Deisher-Allen, students had as long as a month and a half to research their inquiries and assemble their booths, since even though the official in-school kick-off assembly took place one month before the event, students were given an additional two weeks notice prior the assembly, as well as daily reminders during the month leading up to the fair.
Deisher-Allen explained that student presentations to the exhibition were entirely voluntary, as opposed to assigned or required. She elaborated that students were offered suggestions for their projects, but no set parameters were mandated. Although students were evaluated, she clarified that they were all provided with positive feedback, rather than being judged.