The Highland County School’s Science Fair is quickly approaching, and we spoke with Ginny Neil, STEM coordinator for the schools to find out more. She talked first about her role as coordinator, then about the specifics of the Fair.
“I go into the third, fourth and fifth grade classrooms in the elementary school, and I work with those students for an hour once a week to bring hands on science technology, engineering and mathematics activities, to supplement what their teachers do. In the middle school, I work with a select few sixth, seventh and eighth graders, and we do a variety of STEM activities, and then in ninth grade the same thing, I have all the ninth graders because it’s a very small class.
“The school sponsors the science fair – when I came on board last year as the STEM coordinator, I volunteered to take over the science fair. I think that it had been done one year before that, might be two. But the superintendent was doing it, and some other people were doing it, and I felt like if there was just one person in charge, it might make it a little more streamlined, so I volunteered, and I’ve spent the last two years just trying to take what they were already doing and give it a little bit more shape.
“The science fair is for students in grades three through eight, and all students in those grades put together a project that has a testable question, they have a hypothesis – they come up with a procedure and a list of materials that they’ll need to accomplish their experiment – they perform their experiments, and then they report out what they learned from it. In addition to that, they have to do some research, so all the students in grades three through eight do that.
“And then all those projects come together on one day in the elementary gym for judging, and so this year, that’s on February 16th, which is a Thursday – hopefully it won’t snow – if it snows, that changes.
“The students come into the gym, there are twelve judges lined up, we’ll have two judges per grade, and each student will present their project to the judges. The judges have a score sheet, they listen to what the students have to say, and then when all students have presented, the judges will get together and choose a first and second place winner from each grade, plus an overall grand prize winner from the elementary and the middle school. In addition to that, several students will be selected to go onto the regional science fair from the middle school. Last year, we sent three students to the regional science fair, and two of them placed, so we were really excited about that.
“The students present their projects to the judges until about 1:30 in the afternoon, and then we invite all the school to come in, and they get to see the projects, but the scores and the ribbons are not out. Those don’t go out until the night of.
“So on February 16th at 6:00 pm, same day, we open up the gym, and all the students can come in and they can see how well they did with their projects. In addition to that, on that night, we have all kinds of hands on activities for students to do in science and technology, engineering and math around the edges of the gym. And this year we have a groups called Mad Science coming to visit, and they’re going to present a 45 minute show called Fire and Ice. I believe there will be a lot of smoke, a lot of fire, a lot of fun things, and it’s very kid oriented, and they bring a lot of kids from the audience to participate in their science experiments. We tried to get them last year and we got snowed out, so we’re hoping that this year, they’ll be there.
“So if you’re interested in the science fair, finding out what your child is doing or finding out more about attending that night, you can call me at the school at 540-468-6300. I think we’re going to put it on Facebook, there are things going home in the students’ bookbags, all the Friday folders of all the students that also have information. It is free to the public, so we really hope lots of adults will come and appreciate all the hard work that the students have done, and then enjoy the program and then watch the awards.”