|Science on display at MJ Middle|
|Friday, September 21, 2012|
By PATRICK HALL
Almost 500 eighth grade students at Mt. Juliet Middle School showed off their knowledge of Science and skills in that field at the school’s Science Fair Thursday morning, with entries being judged by a Middle Tennessee State University Chemistry Professor and Mt. Juliet High School Science teacher.
Robert Brindos, a Science teacher at MJ Middle said the school’s students were required to create a science project on their own or in pairs to demonstrate and apply what they have learned so far this year in eighth grade Science classes.
“They had to present their projects to the students and to judges,” Brindos said. “This is the first time we’ve done this. There used to be a sixth grade Science Fair but that was cut five or six years ago.”
Projects ranged from Physics to Biology and Chemistry and while all eighth grade students created a project, the top 32 were judged by a distinguished panel. MTSU Biology Professor Dr. Cindi Smith-Walters and MJHS Chemistry teacher Gayle Hayes along with MJMS Assistant Principal Dr. Cathy Toombs judged the top 32 entries.
“I am very impressed,” Hayes said of the projects, noting, “These students will be my students.”
Brindos said the Science Fair is a good way to have students apply what they’ve learned in class, which he said is a big component in the new statewide Common Core standards. He said when he and fellow Science teacher Chad Funke were in training on the Common Core standards, he had an idea to revive the Science Fair.
As the old standards focused on testing and just getting through material that would be covered on a standardized test, Brindos said Common Core is focused on application and demonstration. He said it is more than just reciting what you know, but showing that students know how to use what they’ve learned.
“It is more about application and critical thinking, what better way to do that than a Science Fair,” Brindos said.
Hayes noted the students showed very strong knowledge of how to apply the Scientific Method and a great understanding of how to conduct a good experiment.
Smith-Walters said the knowledge that students gain at this level is vital to continuing an education in a scientific field of study. She said with advances in various scientific fields, students who are enthused about Science will have plenty of opportunities after their education is complete.
“There are going to be many careers available to them,” Smith-Walters said. “They are really stretching and challenging themselves.”
As a Chemistry Professor, Smith-Walters said she hopes teachers in middle schools and high schools can encourage students to continue studying the Sciences and to foster the love that students may already have of the subject.
“Anything I can do to encourage interest in Science and scientific careers, I am all for it,” she said.
The judges individually went to all 32 student projects that were chosen as the best by their teachers to hear their presentations and ask questions that required students to further explain their methods and show their understanding of their experiments.
After hearing presentations from the students, judges deliberated on which ones they felt were the best. The first place winner was a project by Aubrey Jarrell and Andrea Hanson, in which they demonstrated how algae can be used as a biofuel.
Jarrell and Hanson grew algae and extracted oil, which is a byproduct of the algae’s growth. They could determine which type of algae produced the most oil and said they soaked up the oil using candle wicks.
Second place went to Jonas Saich for his project on the decay rates in different vegetables and third place was awarded to Ryan Sheehy for his project on why cutting onions makes your eyes burn and water and how to prevent it.
Following the success of the Fair at the middle school, Brindos said they hope to take the idea to other schools and hold a countywide eighth grade Science Fair in the future. He said the new textbooks for Science come with a guide on how to hold a fair.
“We are learning about this as the students are, and we hope we can get this to be something that’s countywide in the future,” Brindos said.