By Breanne Massey
Dace Prymak is astonished that so many of his classmates pushed the boundaries of science while conducting experiments this school year.
The Grade 9 David Thompson Secondary School (DTSS) student, along with many of his peers, felt a strong connection to his science fair project as the topics were chosen individually by each participating student.
I took a nail and wrapped copper wire around it, then I connected the wire to a battery to see how many paper clips that I could pick up, said Dace, noting the ability to come up with his own research topic was a positive change in the way classes are conducted.
He added that if there was more time, it would have been interesting to test different types of nails and different types of wire to see what else could be picked up. Dace spent two weeks working on the science fair project before it was displayed.
When asked what he learned from the project, he replied: The more wraps there were, the more paper clips it picked up.
He was especially proud to state that the interest his project garnered from younger students was encouraging.
One kid thought it was pretty sweet actually, said Dace.
The opportunity to ask science-based questions motivated Grades 8 and 9 students at DTSS to conduct research on life, physical and earth science projects for the first-ever DTSS student-led science fair.
The assignment was given out to more than 60 students and the fair was open to the public between 7 and 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 10th in the school library and cafeteria free of charge.
The new B.C. curriculum, which encourages students from kindergarten to Grade 9 to focus on a directed studies approach has been optional in this school year but will become required for all B.C. students in the fall of 2016.
The event was not quite as well-attended as I had hoped, but those who did visit seemed impressed by what they saw, said Tessa Bartz, DTSS science teacher and event organizer. The students put a great amount of effort into their projects, and it was very rewarding for them to be able to show off their hard work. Im very thankful for the visitors who came, and I hope to see more next year.
In addition, some of the Grade 11 students were volunteering to supervise the experiments and a select few Grade 12 students were helping to judge the projects at the end of the day-long science fair.
Graycen Oliver, a Grade 9 student at DTSS, felt connected to the new learning approach and was highly engaged in his experiment.
I created bacteria from powdered agar, then I added hot water, let that sit to cool off, then once it cooled off I put that into a microwave in a glass beaker so that the plastic wouldnt morph. From there, I set it to one minute or waited until the powder was clear and fully dissolved, said Graycen. From there, I let that sit without the lid of the petri dish on until it turned into a jello-like substance. From there, I put it upside down in a dark room at room temperature for five to seven days until the bacteria grew. To create the bacteria, I used strands of someones hair in our class and once the bacteria formed, I tested three of the petri dishes with cobalt, three with mercury and then just left three as controls.
Graycen wanted to test if the bacteria would grow or die, but ultimately, he learned each test yielded a different result.
What I discovered from the mercury is that the first few days, the growth was very high but then after the third and fourth day, it all started to die off. Theres only one or two left, he explained. The cobalt was the opposite. It went from not having any bacteria to having a lot more than the base and everything else, so in a sense, it supported my hypothesis which was if you add cobalt to bacteria, these substances would feed the bacteria and cause it to grow because both cobalt and mercury are volatile substances themselves; plus share characteristics with bacteria.
Graycen developed the idea by examining similarities between the substances (bacteria, cobalt and mercury) and tried to create a reaction.
When I was in Grade 8, I loved cells and I always wanted to create bacteria and this is the way that I thought of doing it, he explained. It came to me and it turned out that it worked better than I expected, which surprised the teacher the growth.
When asked if science was his favourite subject, Graycen promptly replied: By far, yes.