AUBURN — No fish, worms or hamsters were injured in the making of St. Joseph School’s third annual science fair April 5, but a lot of plants were.
One pair of students did an experiment to determine whether fish have good memories, another pair tested the effects of sunlight on worms and another worked to find out whether a hamster’s sense of smell could guide him through a maze. A sign over the hamster’s cage read “Do not touch cage! Hamster bites. Hamster’s name is Jaws.”
Sixth-graders Amanda Balcom and Amber Kukiela watered herbs with four different liquids to see which the herbs preferred. Not surprisingly, the herbs preferred plain water and didn’t care for Kool-Aid and lemonade.
“I think the Kool-Aid and lemonade probably had too much sugar and killed the plants,” Amber said.
“We didn’t realize that they would kill it,” Amanda added.
Fellow sixth-grader Stephen Moore realized after conducting his own experiments that water with food coloring in it doesn’t make for very healthy plants, either.
Eighty-five students in preschool through eighth grade contributed a total of 58 projects to the science fair. Students in the younger grades worked together to create one class project and had the option of creating their own project. Participation in the science fair was mandatory for students in sixth through eighth grades, said Laura Coleman, middle-school science teacher.
“The philosophy behind full participation is to get the younger grades interested and just working with science,” Coleman said.
Coleman said she received a lot of positive feedback from the teachers of the younger grades, who said working on the projects helped them enrich their students’ knowledge of the scientific method. Many of these teachers were able to tie the project into something the students were already working on in class or at home, she said.
Students in first grade, for example, formed groups and wrote songs about dental health to the tune of popular children’s songs. Through the students’ efforts, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” became “Brush, Brush, Brush Your Teeth,” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” became “Dental, Dental Floss Is Good.”
Patricia Healy’s third-grade class looked at the effects of poor dental health, putting together a project on tooth decay. The students left a hard-boiled egg in vinegar, turning its shell soft and rubbery. Through this project, the students concluded that something similar happens to human teeth that aren’t properly taken care of.
Several other students decided to work on health-related projects for the science fair. Seventh-graders John Fiermonte and Luke Christiantelli conducted an experiment to determine whether caffeine had any effect on blood pressure. They found 10 willing subjects and took their blood pressure. John and Luke then served their subjects a seven-ounce cup of coffee, waited a half-hour and took their blood pressure again. Six out of their 10 subjects showed increased blood pressure, they said.
Luke said he and John chose that particular project partly because they wanted to use Luke’s grandfather’s blood-pressure machine.
Fellow seventh-grader David Castle decided to measure the effects of different kinds of music on a person’s heart rate. While playing a video game one time, a sudden burst of scary music surprised David so much he almost jumped off his chair, he said.
That experience helped him form his hypothesis — that scary music would increase a person’s heart rate. To test his hypothesis, David blindfolded several people and had them listen to a tape of different types of video-game music. Unfortunately his research proved his hypothesis wrong, since most people he tested did not have an increased heart rate after listening to the scary music. Nonetheless, David said he enjoyed doing the research and using the scientific method.
Fifth-graders Kacey Jervis and Amy Abraham were pleased with the results of their worm experiment. After placing one container of dirt and worms in the sunlight and another in a dark room, they found worms don’t really like sunlight. The worms in the sunlight had tunneled underneath the dirt, while the worms in the dark stayed on top of the soil, they said.
“We wanted to do something with live animals, and we really couldn’t think of anything else,” Kacey said, explaining why the girls chose to focus on worms.
“Worms are kind of easy to find, and you don’t really have to buy them,” Amy added.
Both girls said they enjoyed working with the worms, although some of their teachers and classmates were “grossed out.”