Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Smarty's school had their annual science fair yesterday. Participation in a science fair is mandatory for all students, but Smarty was lucky because her teacher allowed her to do one science fair project for both of her science classes (middle school life science and marine biology). She partnered with a high school senior to build an aquaponics garden for her school.
In comparison to Smarty's 7th grade science fair project, this year's project was way more serious. Every student, including middle school students, had to do research of science papers related to their project, design an experiment, conduct an experiment, write a research paper, a presentation, and a poster. Smarty's partner was absent quite a bit, and she ended up doing most of the project on her own with her science teacher helping her to connect her aquaponics tray to their school's koi pond.
Smarty was taking water quality samples before and after the aquaponics system was set up and was dismayed to see that her hypothesis is not confirmed by facts. She expected to see oxygen level of water rise and the nitrate/nitrite levels drop with plants taking nutrients out of pond water and returning oxygen. However, so far, oxygen level dropped and nitrite/nitrate levels are jumping all over the place. There could be other factors contributing here, since the pond is open to the sky, and we had a lot of rain recently. Cold weather also was not helping plants - only a couple of seeds sprouted so far. However, Smarty is hoping that her aquaponic garden will establish itself over summer - conveniently, the school is open for most of summer, because it offers summer school, so teachers will keep an eye on the garden (and on the fish).
Smarty was reasonably pleased with her project and was super excited to find out today that she won the first place in life science category. Her middle school friend won overall with her project about how different painkillers dissolve in the stomach. Honestly, I think Smarty's poster could have been better - she still lacks attention to details and "design flair" in her work. However, looking at other projects in life science classes (biology honors and marine biology), I could see that her project does not look immature even considering that she is 5 years younger than some of her classmates including her partner. But, for comparison, here is the project that earned an overall first place, and it was done by an 11 year old middle school girl ;)
When I was looking at the projects, I was struck with "unevenness" of her school mates. It seems that local students (so far in minority in this school) are very strong overall, while international students are definitely hampered by their weakness in English. It was apparent both in their poster and in their ability to present their work. I am really hoping that Smarty's school will get more local students joining for high school in August, because it's only she and another boy who are ready to transition from middle school to high school this year. Student body will strongly influence what will be offered next year, so I am keeping my fingers crossed for stronger students and higher level classes available to Smarty.

Your Turn

Are your kids participating in a science fair this year?


Joyful Learner said...

It makes sense that the school attracts outliers since it focuses on individualized education. Majority of the middle of the road students are in public schools.

Congrats to A on winning first in the life category!

Ticia said...

Congratulations on 1st place in life science!

Our co-op did not have a science fair this year, but they've done presentation days in previous years.

MaryAnne said...

Congratulations, Smarty!

It sounds like a cool project. So far we have not competed in science fairs, although both my husband and I both took first in biology in high school in our respective competitions. We didn't win overall, though, and I think both of us competed only once.

We did happen to both research the same general topic (applications of RNA electrophoresis), which was the one random thing we had in common when we met in college.

His public school had by far better science equipment than mine - due to the constraints that are commonly found in small private schools. We both wound up in the same college, though!