“Did you know by 2050, 25% of carbon emissions will come from wasted fabrics?”
“Have you ever wondered which brand of household battery will last the longest?”
“Can you imagine living in a place where there is no electricity?”
That was just some of the questions I was asked this week by Middle School students to hook my attention before launching into their science fair presentations. On Tuesday afternoon, the chapel and Brown Hall were buzzing with more than 200 students exhibiting and sharing their personalized scientific inquiry and innovation projects with our wider community.
From exploring the aerodynamics of vertical versus horizontal wind turbines and testing the effect of playing brass instruments on eye pressure to investigating if balloons really can lift a house (just like in the movie Up), our students improved their understanding of the scientific method. Many students developed innovative design solutions to address real-world problems, such as creating electricity from the kinetic energy generated from toilets and piezo crystals under a computer keyboard.
Climate change was at the forefront of our budding scientists’ minds, with innovations created to reuse wasted fabric such as insulation, grow plants using recycled plastic hydroponic gardens, make surfboards from recycled Styrofoam and create biodiesel from coffee grounds. The array of ideas was astounding and inspiring!
Science fairs have been around for almost a century and although they look somewhat different to previous generations, the value of acquiring scientific knowledge through evidence-based learning is still prominent. SMUS students have participated in regional science fairs for many years with notable success, but this year is the first time all Grade 6, 7 and 8 students have completed a project at school.
This was also the first time we have had expert judges, who are working in the field of science, to give feedback to our students. With an increased emphasis on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) programming and life skills such as communication, collaboration, critical and creative thinking, participating in science fairs is a learning experience we want all our students to have.
Curiosity, confidence and independence are developed when students can choose an area of interest to explore and carry out an in-depth inquiry or design thinking process from conception through to completion. The multidisciplinary and competency-based nature of the projects align with BC’s redesigned curriculum, enhancing the skills of reading, writing, research, data analysis and oral communication.
My favourite question to ask students when they’re presenting to me is, “What would you do differently next time?” because the insights around project management, fair testing and further wonderings are often the most significant. There is no doubt; this Generation Z of environmentally- and socially-conscious changemakers are asking the right questions and have the passion and ingenuity to find solutions that will lead to positive change in our world.