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Science fair prepares students for state exams

By Carolina Astrain - CASTRAIN@VICAD.COM
Feb. 9, 2013 at 12:03 a.m.
Updated Feb. 9, 2013 at 8:10 p.m.

Alexander "Lex" Wheelock, 7, gives a last look at the car motor he made for his science project, being held by his father, Erik, before moving it to the library to display during the science fair at Ella Schorlemmer Elementary School on Jan. 31.

Alexander "Lex" Wheelock, 7, gives a last look at the car motor he made for his science project, being held by his father, Erik, before moving it to the library to display during the science fair at Ella Schorlemmer Elementary School on Jan. 31.   Angeli Wright for The Victoria Advocate

Rows of tri-fold poster boards created a labyrinth within Schorlemmer Elementary School's gymnasium Thursday afternoon.

Parents and students waded through clay figurines, petri dishes and detailed explanations behind each project's scientific method.

Michelle Sturm, an Ella Schorlemmer Elementary School learning facilitator, said the fair was the second annual campuswide science competition since the school's opening in 2009.

Judges from the community stepped forward to help decide which students would be walking away with the top-ranking award certificate for Best of Show.

"We had about 12 judges this year," Sturm said. "No parents are allowed to judge. We had some of the administrative staff, parents of faculty members and retired teachers volunteer."

Each presentation received marks for correctly applying the scientific method to their projects by posing a question and then answering it, organization and comprehension.

Fifth-grade science teacher Katherine Schuelke, who has taught for the past 27 years, said she offers examples of projects past to help students brainstorm their entries.

"Sometimes kids absolutely can't figure out what to do," Schuelke said. "All we can provide is guidance."

In fifth grade, Schuelke said she encourages students to create a project to coincide with the grade-level's upcoming science-based STAAR examination.

Fourth-grader Amar Hamasagar, 8, created an electric buzzer using a soda can, rubber band and nail file.

By pushing down on a mouse trap, Amar sent an electric current through a red wire, creating a gameshow buzzer sound.

"It was hard to put together because I had trouble choosing the right bolt," Amar said. "I want to study electrical engineering when I grow up."

Other students posed questions such as, "Why endangered species are endangered?" and put the 5-second germ rule to the test.

Third-grader Andrew Burgos, 9, received a Best of Show award for ranking three brands of batteries by their performance and price.

"It's been fun. It took a lot of hard work," Andrew said. "It took me 11 hours to finish it."

Andrew hypothesized that the cheapest battery, Rayovac, would come out victorious, but the Duracell battery he tested came out on top.

In the Life Science competition, third-grader William Wright, 9, took the Best of Show award by seeing which type of fruit would rot the worst in a 25-day time period.

William and his mother Laura Wright ate the surviving green apple and grapefruit which endured the longest throughout the experiment.

"At first, I thought the fruit with the thickest skin, the banana, was going to win," William said. "Next, I want to see what sort of plant will grow the largest by using Dr. Pepper instead of water."

The upcoming exam will have 18 questions on the physical sciences, 14 questions on organisms and environments and 12 questions on earth and space.

To teach students about physical sciences, the bulk subject of the STAAR exam's questions, the science teacher said she used stop-animation in her classroom to demonstrate the cycle between night and day.

"We just want to increase that love of science and that love of learning of maybe learning about things they didn't know before," the science teacher said.

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