8:59 a.m., May 5, 2010----Which fin shape gives a model rocket more stability and height? Do certain spices preserve raw chicken better than others? Those are just two of the questions students at The College School (TCS) at the University of Delaware asked and investigated for their project at this year's science fair on April 21.
"It's amazing to see how independently the students work, they really push themselves," said Kathleen Krause, a seventh and eighth grade teacher at TCS. "They've come up with really hard questions."
These weren't your basic science fair projects. Students in grades 5-8 used the process of scientific inquiry to guide their learning. In collaboration with faculty at the University of Delaware, Eric Eslinger, assistant professor in the School of Education, first helped the students understand the inquiry process. Each class learned what constitutes a "good" scientific question. Students also learned how to choose questions that can be investigated and how to analyze their findings to come up with a scientific model.
Eighth grader Donny Danese decided to investigate what style support cable is best for a suspension bridge.
"I learned from modeling bridges, the design, and which will hold more," said Danese. "So now I know that one design is probably better for one particular building of a bridge."
When he grows up, Danese says he wants to be an architect or a structural engineer.
Like Danese, many students chose concepts for their projects that interested them. They picked a topic back in January and completed most of the work outside of school. Students gathered their data and then, using a computer program created by Eslinger, Inquiry Island, they submitted their information, created summaries based on the results and even discussed how they could've improved their project.
"They learn a lot more, they retain a lot more, because they're not just reading an answer in a science textbook, they're actually doing it," said Krause. "Then they bring in their boards and they're able to present what they've learned."
This was sixth grader Maddy Keating's first science fair at TCS. A ballerina with a passion for dance, Keating studied what brand of point shoe better allowed dancers to perform a specific type of movement in ballet, called an échappé.
"I liked that I could see everyone's interests," said Keating. "I'm new to the school and they all chose something that they liked and it made me get closer to the other students."
This was the fourth annual science fair for TCS. After months of preparation, students finally had the opportunity to show their families and fellow classmates what they learned from their projects.
"It was a lot of work," said Keating. "But it all paid off when you get to see all your fellow students, teachers and parents here looking at your work."
Article, photos and video by Cassandra Kramer