St. Peter’s sixth graders gathered in the Science Fair room on Feb. 21 to talk individually with volunteer judges.
The St. Peter’s science fair is not a competition, but it is serious.
Science teachers Deb Sieben, sixth grade, and Megan Masshardt, fifth grade, said St. Peter’s Catholic School places a strong emphasis on science.
Third graders build bridges of different styles and test the strength. (One year the third grade made catapults.)
Fourth graders launch balloon rockets.
In fifth grade each student tests a hypothesis and presents the results
at the science fair. What are the variables? What are the results?
Sixth graders repeat the exercise, this time more independently.
The science fair has been going on for over 30 years. With modern technology making information easy to get, the school has high expectations now, the teachers said.
The judging is a chance to present the project orally. Teachers do the grading.
Which is cleaner, a dog’s mouth or a human’s? Grace McElmury swabbed some saliva from the cheeks of her mom, her sister, and her dog, then grew cultures on agar plates in an incubator. She provided light for one hour each morning and four hours each evening for four days and recorded the amount of bacterial growth each night. Then she repeated the whole process another four days. The dog’s mouth swab grew more bacteria both times, although the amounts were different. With the leftover agar plates, McElmury swabbed her brother’s lunch box, the bathroom door knob, and the refrigerator handle. The lunch box had the most bacterial growth.
Mitchell Longsdorf, grade 6, said when his mom asked her kids to spread salt on the icy driveway, he got the idea of testing the ability of different salts to melt ice. Kosher salt and sea salt were already on hand in the kitchen, and he went to Menards for the rest. The best result, Longsdorf said, came from a premade mixture of three salts—magnesium chloride, calcium chloride and sodium chloride—that melted the ice quickly and sustained the melting for a long time. “In fifth grade, they walk you through it,” he said about the science fair process; “in sixth, you’re more on your own.” For his project last year, Longsdorf compared two downhill ski waxes.
Vicki Klesk, grade 6, said her mom was frustrated with laundry stains. “I thought it would be a great science project: My mom could use the results, and I could get a good grade,” she said. After applying the same yellow mustard and olive oil stains on several socks, Klesk compared three detergents (Tide, Purex, and All) and three treatment options (Shout stain remover, baking soda and none). The best combination was Purex plus baking soda, she said, adding that Purex was also the cheapest detergent. The least effective? All plus baking soda, which “made a weird chemical reaction and turned orange.”
David Shipp, grade 6, was at a friend’s house and noticed the friend’s computer was much faster than his. He decided to compare several computers in the time they took, measured in nanoseconds, to perform addition, multiplication, subtraction and division problems. He measured the times with a Java timing applet. The Mac beat out three PCs in every category, he said.