April 19th 2013April/May Calendar Announcements for The Heartworks and Renaissance Schools Read More
Renaissance Students Attend Vermont State Science & Mathematics Fair
This year’s Vermont State Science and Mathematics Fair was truly inspirational. The air was full of excitement as students from all over the state came together to share their love of science. These children are so interested in science that they spent months of their spare time researching, investigating, and experimenting in order to find answers to their questions, and on Saturday, March 31, they celebrated and shared their findings with a wide variety of scientists and engineers from Vermont and New Hampshire, who served as judges.
Fifth and sixth grade students from The Renaissance School in Shelburne had been preparing for months, and on the day of the state science fair, they arrived at Norwich University full of nervous excitement. Their projects covered a wide range of topics: dissolved oxygen, fun food shapes, magnets, renewable energy sources, and smiles. With support and encouragement from their parents and teacher, and good wishes from the entire school community, the children prepared for the first judges who would arrive anytime after 9 a.m.
All of the children were impressive in their ability to present the information about their projects in a way that reflected their use of the scientific process. All their preparation paid off as they not only explained the work they had done, but also capably answered questions from the judges about background information, scientific terminology, and the methods they used. “I was really impressed by the interest that older students from different schools took in reaching out to, and coaching, younger students. The judges, too, were wonderfully supportive of the children’s efforts and made the extra effort to help students with similar projects connect with, and learn from, each other,” remarked Renaissance teacher, Eve Dubois. “Earlier this year, we also received a generous grant from the Vermont Academy of Arts and Sciences, which provided equipment for the children’s science studies and experiments. It is so encouraging to have such a high level of support for science education in our state.”
Everyone who presented at the state science fair has reason to be proud of their accomplishment. The time and energy that these young scientists put into finding the answers to their questions and then communicating their findings to other scientists reflects their dedication and commitment to learning and discovery, even when the answers are not what they expected. Caleb Oliveira, for instance, investigated the effect of weather conditions on dissolved oxygen levels in a local stream and in Lake Champlain and discovered that sunshine, snow, or rain made little difference in dissolved oxygen levels. His teacher, Eve Dubois explained, “Not getting the results we expect can be disappointing at first, so we talk a lot in science class about proving and disproving our hypotheses. Science is not about having the right answer and proving it; it’s about learning something you didn’t know before.”
Ben Blackmore investigated children’s opinions about the best source for renewable energy, having gathered information about the benefits and challenges of a variety of sources, including solar, wind, and geothermal power, as well as more traditional sources. He discovered that most children think methane digesters would be a good way to produce electricity, and at the fair, he found out that two Essex High School students, were investigating which kind of waste would produce the most energy. Their results also supported Ben’s conclusion that methane digesters would be a good choice for the future.
Gregory Lieberman from the MindBody Medicine Clinic at the University of Vermont, was very interested in Caleb Morehouse’s project, which investigated people’s ability to distinguish between real and fake smiles. He was particularly impressed with Caleb’s clear understanding of scientific terminology related to his project, and even left Caleb with a business card and the encouraging possibility of future collaboration.
Having lunch in the college cafeteria was a highlight of the day, and the fifth and sixth graders enjoyed running around and playing games on the sunny college campus before heading back indoors for the awards ceremony. The ceremony began with a presentation by South Burlington High School junior Riya Patel, who was one of the winners of last year’s state science fair and went on to win awards at the International Science and Engineering Fair. As she shared her experiences and enthusiasm, students, teachers, and parents alike were inspired by the unlimited possibilities for future scientific exploration and the sense of camaraderie among science students all over the world.
Students from The Renaissance School earned several awards at the ceremony. David Melkumov’s project, which investigated the effect of temperature on a magnet’s strength, was designated a superior project and earned him a gold medal from the Vermont Principal’s Association. David also won $100 from the Society of Manufacturing Engineers for his innovative problem-solving methods and a Middle School Energy and Electricity Exploration Kit from the Vermont Energy Education Program. David and his class will also benefit from a presentation by VEEP during their upcoming studies of electricity and magnetism.
Caleb Oliveira’s dissolved oxygen project won an award of $50 from the Green Mountain Water Education Association, and Liam Lustberg won a $200 award from the Northeast Section of the Institute of Food Technologists for his investigation of whether the shapes of potato chips and pretzels affect how well children like different foods. He will also be honored at a special Student Recognition Night dinner sponsored by the institute.
Congratulations to all the students who participated in the state science fair. Your passion and thirst for knowledge point to a bright and hopeful future full of limitless exploration and discovery.