Students delve into science questions

Interested in the history of sneezing? How about which color hair produces the most static electricity? Here’s one: Which dog treats are truly most favored by canines?

The research into these and other intriguing questions were shared at Otsego Elementary School’s premiere Science Fair Exhibition recently. The fifth-graders, families and community members met in a crowded gymnasium surrounded by display boards, gadgets and the sights, sounds and smells of a science workshop.

Submitted photo
Lauren Willenbring used microscopes to reveal the distinctly different crystals in the sand.

This fair was inspired by Otsego Elementary science teacher Zoeann Allen and supported by the multidisciplinary efforts of the school’s fifth-grade teaching team. The goal was for the students to experience the rigors of the scientific method from beginning to end. Students were given their research topics but had to narrow down their purpose and identify a specific research question. During their months of study, they conducted background research, created their hypotheses and procedures, conducted experiments, analyzed their data and eventually presented their conclusions.
While meeting their Minnesota state requirements for fifth-grade science, math and language arts, these students were getting first-hand research experience of their own.

“It’s been a blast and a huge learning experience for all involved,” Allen said.

Some experiments produced surprising results. According to Emily Carroll, “The hot water actually froze first,” and that was a result of a chemical reaction. And Keira Hutchins confirmed that the color of a candle actually does affect how quickly it burns.

Lauren Willenbring used a microscope to correlate the presence of certain minerals in the samples of different colored sand. Specifically, the presence of mica, quartz and feldspar gave her sand samples a distinctly different sheen and color.

And other research was meticulously conducted and displayed. The rates of absorption, amounts of sediment, and the effect of temperature all influenced Yusupha Saine’s results when he studied the effects of moisture on the color of different types of soil.

About 140 students in all participated in scientific exploration.