Science fair fosters experiential learning and community engagement
Posted on March 6, 2017 by Tia Lalani
Augustana’s second annual science fair brought together more than popsicle sticks and glue – over 200 grade seven students visited campus for the day with help from Augustana staff and faculty, and community judges.
Have you ever wondered how many potatoes it would take to power a house? Grade seven science students Lauren and Jared from Our Lady of Mount Pleasant School have the answer for you.
Generating electricity with potatoes to produce light was just one of the many science projects that were presented at Augustana’s second annual Grade Seven Science Fair, held in the Jeanne & Peter Lougheed Centre on February 14th. Other honourable mentions include the discovery of an algorithm used to solve rubix cubes and the process of roasting marshmallows with a solar oven.
Over 200 students from Our Lady of Mount Pleasant and École Charlie Killam schools attended the event alongside 20 judges made up of community members, alumni and campus staff and faculty. The full-day fair included a tour and scavenger hunt around campus organized by Augustana’s Prospective Student Office and our Campus Ambassadors, sessions for the visitors to take part in including biology professor Tom Terzin’s bug and butterfly collection, a chemistry demonstration that may have included an explosion or two, a recycling demonstration made up of bingo and a relay race and, finally, a presentation on “The Science of Music”. These demonstrations were all in addition to the fair itself, which included 73 groups of students from two local schools.
Although the event took place in February, it began back in September with ten Community Service Learning placements that allowed Augustana science students to work with the grade sevens within their schools every week to bring their science fair projects from conception to creation.
“Many of our students are considering going into education, so this either reaffirms that choice for them or they realize it’s not something they’ll enjoy doing every day,” says Student Academic Services Supervisor Alexis Anderson. “This placement gives them a window into [education] in their undergrad which is a big deal.”
Early teaching and mentoring experience is not the only thing that Augustana students take away from their involvement with the fair.
“It gives them another way of thinking about sciences too,” Community Service Learning Coordinator Stacey Rempel mentions. “Labs are great learning opportunities and are very experiential, but it is very different when you’re taking it out to the community or you’re having to explain the scientific method to a grade seven student.”
“We heard back from so many of them last year that they know the scientific method inside and out. They thought they knew it before, but now they really know it,” Anderson laughs.
Running for its second year in a row, the science fair once again included community involvement. City councillors David Ofrim and Agnes Hoveland attended as judges, along with firefighters, former students, current faculty and staff and others from community organizations like the Battle River Watershed Alliance. The judges awarded prizes to seven groups, based not only on the scientific thought that went into their final project, but also on creativity, communication and display. Aside from these skills, the students also got to see the inner-workings of a university campus and get excited about a post-secondary education.
“I think many students from Camrose – and I was one of them – just don’t think about Augustana because it’s here and doesn’t seem interesting or exciting,” Anderson admits. “But once they get on campus and see the multitude of things they could get into here, I think it has changed some minds in terms of where they might end up.”
“The mentors in the classrooms are also a huge asset because it allows the grade seven youth to see someone and think “Oh, they’re young, I could be that person someday” and really gives them a good role model,” adds Rempel.
The science fair culminated not only in the promotion of exceptional mentors, community involvement, scientific analysis and experiential learning, but sheer practical know-how; if you happen to have millions of potatoes lying around, just speak to Lauren and Jared about how to power your house!
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