For a few days this week, Houghtling Elementary School’s library looked more like a laboratory. Tables were covered in poster boards, and exploratory stations for its annual science fair. The fair is the only one still going in the district, and has been around for more than 20 years.
Fourth-grade teacher Jennifer Simpson said when kids start thinking about science fair projects, she encourages them to pick a topic they are already interested in.“ That’s really the most successful projects, on a topic that a kid likes. You can tell who the basketball players are, they’ve done something on basketball. Pet lovers, you name it. I had a kid who’s into fishing, he did an awesome project having to do with fishing lures.”
The fair is open to all Houghtling students and had about 65 entries this year. Fifth grade teacher Sharon Carson said kids really enjoy learning science in an exploratory way. “Science fair is a venue for kids to explore the different aspects of the scientific process, coming up with a question and then a hypothesis, figuring out how they’re going to test their question so, steps and procedures and then just being able to present it in a forum like this.”
The kids are interviewed by their teachers to determine how much the students actually understand about their topics. Then, the projects are judged by community members based on scientific thought, process and presentation.
Even the judging is scientific; librarians took time to eliminate potential bias covering names and faces on poster boards with sticky notes.
Bob Durland from the local chapter of Society of American Foresters has been a judge at the fair since the ‘80s, and said each year brings new excitement. “It’s interesting, these projects are fun.” It’s good that the schools are pushing this and continuing getting involved in science projects. Making creative thinking work within these kids it’s something they’ll need when they get out of school.”
Top scorers received blue ribbons, and the top 10 projects will receive donated prizes from the community at the end-of-the-year assembly.
Twins Anneliese and Genevieve Hiatt were happy to find out they received a blue ribbon for their project, titled sniffy snouts. The project was inspired by their two Labrador retrievers. “They always like sniffing so we wondered what they’d like to interact to different smells.”
Anneliese hypothesized dogs would be most interested in dog urine, while Genevieve thought dogs would like fish juice most. Peanut butter, stinky socks and dog food were also included, and the results? “ We found out that they like dog food the most, because they showed interest in it 77 times.”
The girls have worked together on projects since kindergarten and every year received blue ribbons. Chickens have been a popular topic for them over the years.“ We did stuff on chickens, like we did dust bathing, and we did what types of food they like the best.”
The girls plan to continue pursuing their interest in science and animals, both hoping to be veterinarians later in life.