Newcastle Elementary School hosts its first science fair

May 31, 2012

By Christina Lords

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By Christina Lords Jenna Silvestri, 7, a Newcastle Elementary School first-grader, prepares to create a combustion reaction after Pacific Science Center outreach coordinator Carrie Pucko gives her the proper safety instructions at the school’s first-ever science fair May 11.

Jenna Silvestri stands atop the Newcastle Elementary School stage with more than 100 students clustered around its stairs in eager anticipation.

Outfitted with neon safety glasses and a long plastic tube that connects to a metal pot in front of her, she’s ready to go.

A countdown begins.

Three.

Two.

One.

After taking in a huge gulp of air, the 7-year-old supplies the experiment with the one thing it needs — oxygen — and blows. A big flame of fire puffs up in front of her.

As a first-grade volunteer and participant in Newcastle Elementary’s first science fair, sponsored by the school’s PTA, Silvestri said she was excited to learn more about science.

“I didn’t really know very much about it, so I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do an experiment,” she said. “But now I like it.”

Silvestri joined more than 200 students to create about 125 projects for the fair, which also featured the Pacific Science Center’s Radical Reactions demonstration by outreach coordinator Carrie Pucko.

“The show’s primary function is to get interest up in these young kids,” she said. “It gets them excited about science, even with this very simple chemistry. They see that this stuff is actually kinda cool.”

The show provides visible examples of combustion and chemical reaction using various materials and is a favorite demonstration for small children, Pucko said.

“Fire never fails to impress,” she said, “especially when the lights go out.”

Some teachers required participation in the fair, while others could volunteer a project if they wanted, event organizer and PTA member Danielle Dixon said.

“They can start a lifelong passion for learning about science,” she said. “They learn to hypothesize, and they learn what to do if their hypothesis isn’t correct … They get that love of learning early on.”

Silvestri said it was her first time learning about how to formulate a hypothesis and find a conclusion. She said she wants to learn more about science in the future.

Her experiment — Can I make a hummingbird nest? — turned out to be trickier than she thought, she said.

“Parrots are my favorite animal so I wanted to learn more about birds,” she said. “Then we found a hummingbird nest that was lost and had fallen down, and I wanted to learn more about that.”

After creating a list of materials a hummingbird needs to make a nest, analyzing data and evaluating results, she said she concluded she couldn’t create a hummingbird nest on her own because she lacks one essential material — spider silk to keep the other materials bound together.

Newcastle residents Rich Crispo, Lisa Jensen, John Jensen, Eric Markell, Charlie Black, Macaire Ament, Katie Ringwood, Maggie Likes, Sue Mystkowski, Chris Scheckler, Brian Park, Kurt Fluegge, Andy Wand, Christine Chapelle, Milia Kostadinova and Michele Maresh served as judges for the event.

“I picked up on something early on,” Markell said. “The girls were more intellectual about it. The guys were more like, ‘What can I make a mess with?’”

 

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