Fifth-graders display their science smarts

By Tom Phelan - Staff Writer
Enfield - posted Thu., Feb. 10, 2011
Grace found plants like classical music. Photos by Tom Phelan
Grace found plants like classical music. Photos by Tom Phelan

It is an annual event that all fifth-graders at Eli Whitney School look forward to. It is their academic “moment in the sun.” The science fair at the Enfield elementary school has a certain gravitational pull for students that can’t be explained.
The range of topical questions might have been exhausting, had there been more than just 70 students vying for one of the awards that came at the end of the event. Many were truly technical puzzles, such as “How planes fly,” or “Which 3-D structure is stronger?”
Other topics were clearly of a more personal interest. “Which chocolate melts faster?” was the question one girl wanted to answer, and she did. Using elementary scientific method, she determined that it really didn’t make a difference. They all melted in about the same amount of time (and, I suspect, if she ate the evidence before and after, they all tasted good, too). Another clearly personal enigma was posed by a girl who headlined her small booth with the question, “Does whitening (teeth) work?” She concluded that it really did not, although, as she smiled through her presentation, her listeners may have wondered, “does it really matter?”
Some people drink bottled or filtered water at home, while others are satisfied with what comes out of the tap. One girl wondered what plants liked to drink. Her experiment sought to find out, “Do plants grow better with tap water or distilled water?”
Grace did not care what her plants liked to drink, but she was curious what kind of music they listened to. Her experiment asked the question, “What effect does music have on plants?” She discovered that plants feel better when they listen to classical music, as evidenced by the fact that there was no drying or dropping of leaves on those plants that heard only classical music.
Perhaps the most practical experiment - or Eggsperiment, as she called it - was shown by Raylesia. “How do you tell the difference between a raw egg and a hard-boiled one?” If you look in the refrigerator and find an egg just sitting on the shelf, you can thank this young potential scientist for producing a technique. The hard-boiled egg will spin quickly and easily, but the uncooked egg cannot spin at all.
Any unfamiliar adult who entered the Eli Whitney all-purpose room was interrogated. “Are you one of the judges?” In fact, the judges, science teachers from Fermi High School, arrived after the 2 p.m. closing of the exhibition, and assessed the use of hypotheses, the method of data collection and the techniques used to prove the hypotheses.
Fifth grade teachers Heather Brunelle, Charlotte Zenzick and Kim Sweeney were all proud of the effort their students put into the science fair, but also happy it is now behind them.


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