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Fowler elementary students engage in day of discovery during Science Exploration Day

Results from Science Exploration Day are in

Christian Burney
LA Junta Tribune
Drake Gonzales - 4th Grade

Fowler Elementary didn't host a traditional Science Fair and Open House this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the school district hosted a Science Exploration Day, superintendent and Fowler principal Alfie Lotrich said.

Science Exploration Day consisted of an afternoon highlighting student science experiments and engineering design projects.

Amy Pieper, who teaches Fowler Jr/Sr High School science, coordinated Science Exploration Day. This year, the students' science projects were only showcased for their fellow classmates, as opposed to the open house format that comes with traditional science fairs in the school district.

"(The experiment process) was different depending on the grade level," said Pieper. "Our younger students, kindergarten through third grade, our main goal was just to get them excited about science. And so kindergarten through third grade did class activities that were kind of teacher-led activities. Some of them did stations where they got to do a bunch of different experiments. Some of the classes just did group experiments." 

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Fourth through sixth grades had freedom to choose what their science-related project would be; anything that interested them, said Pieper. She said the upper elementary grade levels went through a student-led process where their projects were demonstrated in five-minute presentations.

The students who placed in the Science Exploration Day rankings were evaluated by their peers.

"The winners for each class were completely chosen by their peers on who did the best job in terms of presenting a good, solid science project that had science understanding behind it," Pieper said.

"The activities varied across the building and included student-led demonstrations and experiments, design challenges and model building," Lotrich said. "Our upper elementary students demonstrated their activity to their classmates and explained the science behind it. Mrs. Pieper’s and Mrs. Nesselhuf’s high school science classes also contributed to the day with demonstrations and explanations."

Mali Feltner - 4th Grade

Although a traditional science fair wasn't held due to COVID-19, Pieper said the Science Exploration Day went over well and that the school district has learned from the experience.

Pieper intends to implement aspects of this year's science event into future science fairs.

"We'll probably take some of the positives of what we did this year and try to incorporate those into the science fair so it's more student driven," Pieper said. "Sometimes the science fair, it becomes the parents' project, which is not the ideal of what we want for science fair. I think that some of the lessons learned this year, hopefully we can make it more of a student-led project so that the parent's involvement is not so much a determinate factor on whether the kid is successful at science fair or not."

She's particularly excited about the student-led aspects of the event because it encourages the kids to engage science and their own curiosity in their own ways.

"I've gotten a lot of positive feedback for how we did it," Pieper said. "Really, the focus this year was more on the science. I think families probably appreciated not having to stress out about the stereotypical science fair board and having to follow the scientific method.

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"I feel like Science Exploration Day allowed the students to just enjoy the science rather than feeling like it was just an overwhelming project that they had to present at the science fair."

Fourth and fifth grade students evaluated each other's projects and prizes were awarded. A highlights video is under development and will be published on the district's website and Facebook page when it is ready.

Jaxon Trujillo-Rein, Grady Woods, Zavanna wiggins, & Noah Ballard - 3rd Grade

Science Exploration Day results

Fourth Grade

  • 1st Place: Drake Gonzales — Electricity
  • 2nd Place:  Denton Johnson — Plant Germination
  • 3rd Place:  Cole Sigler — Operation Bouncy Egg

Honorable Mention:

  • Garrett Pharr — Holding Fire
  • Ethan Conroy — Exothermic Reaction
  • Brayden Brown — Glow in the Dark Crystals 
  • Sherlyn Hernandez — Elephant Toothpaste
  • Hunter Bennett — Explode a Bag
  • Corey Cordova — Elephant Toothpaste

Fifth Grade

  • 1st Place: Cainan Tomky and Calan Freeland - Cockroaches
  • 2nd Place: Wyatt Olds-Johnson — Sneeze Catcher
  • 3rd Place – Baylee Buford — Sugary Drinks 

Honorable Mention:

  • Bella Hagerman — Homemade vs Store Bought Marshmallows
  • Avery Genova and Haley Rusler — Homemade Water Filter 
  • Graeson Bottini — Shotgun Pattern
  • Bronson Damgaard and Josiah Juvera — Electromagnet 

Sixth Grade

  • 1st Place: Kory Pieper — Crushing a Can with Air Pressure
  • 2nd Place: Leah Brown — Making Crystals
  • 3rd Place: Titus Ballard and Eli Pruett — Gauss Rifle 

Honorable Mention

  • Dallie Uratani — The Digestive System of a Ruminant Animal or a Cow 
  • Wade Clemmenson — Tiny Dancers
  • Eli Wier — How Does Oobleck Work?
  • William Carnes — Tallest Paper Tower Challenge
  • Ella Gonzales — How to Blow up a Balloon by Using CO2
  • Claireanna Martin — Paper Weight Challenge 

Fowler Elementary Overall Award Winners

  • 1st Place: Kory Pieper — Crushing a Can with Air Pressure
  • 2nd Place: Drake Gonzales — Electricity
  • 3rd Place: Cainan Tomky and Calan Freeland — Cockroaches

Tribune-Democrat reporter Christian Burney can be reached by email at cburney@gannett.com.