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The Crook County Middle School Science Fair shows students and visitors alike that science is a broad subject

by: RAMONA McCALLISTER/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - photos by ramona mccallister/central oregonian ABOVE, clockwise: Seventh-grader Abby Papke plays her flute and demonstrates how her theory of room temperature affects musical instruments.

Technology and innovation come together at the middle school when the students are given their scientific inquiry project at the end of the year.
   The seventh and eighth grade students receive their projects around the end of April, and the clock begins to tick. According to eighthgrade CCMS science instructor Charlene Walker, this project, which culminates as a presentation at a science fair, is not your traditional assignment.
   “For the science fair, we decided to open it up to any topic of interest for students,” noted Walker, “so it didn’t have to be something we studied specifically in science (class). It was more a way to get them to practice scientific inquiry – which is part of our state standards.”
   She explained that this involved critical thinking and forming their own experiments, writing their own procedures, and doing some background research on the problem. They then decide on how to best graph that information so people can interpret their data.
   “The nice thing about focusing on scientific inquiry is that seventh-grade curriculum is different than eighth-grade curriculum, and we didn’t have to worry about collaborating on the curriculum,” said Walker. “The kids can pick things that are interesting to them that are outside of our realm of study.”
   She said that because the state dictates what topics they cover and teach, there are a lot of topics that are interesting that they can’t begin to touch on in class.
   “This way, kids can experiment with different things.”
   The students were given approximately one month for their completed projects, with most of the work being done at home. Seventh grade science instructor Tawnya Lane said that they have due dates and class time to do some of the work. She and Walker both did their own scientific inquiry project along with the students. “Right before the Tuesday deadline, for me, of April 24, they needed to have their proposal and their big question and hypothesis,” said Lane. “The Monday before that, I would share with them my big question and my hypothesis. It was just a gentle reminder — here it is, giving them the example of what was expected.”
   The template for the project was converted from a written template to one that could be used in the Google Apps on the student Gmail accounts. The students downloaded the template, and were able to work on them from home.
   “It’s an amazing resource,” said Lane. She said the template for the students’ science projects were digitized, and then downloaded on Google Docs.
   Walker said that the template process helped keep students organized and on track to make sure their project was meeting the requirements that they would be graded on. The students presented their projects in class, then they had them on display at the science fair on Wednesday and Thursday evening.
   During the Thursday evening science fair, students were proudly demonstrating and showing off their science projects.
   Seventh-grader Neil Chaney based his science project on how much weight different kinds of model bridges could bear. He built four model bridges, using pine and popsicle sticks.
   “I added weight in the middle of them to see which one held the most weight,” said Chaney.
   He said he hypothesized the suspension bridge would hold the most weight, but it didn’t. The chess bridge he built held the most, which was 568 pounds.
   In addition to his physical project, Chaney said that he had to make charts and graphs, and of course, his hypothesis and report. The students used their Google chrome computers to create their written work, which they can access anywhere that they have the internet. This made it convenient for students to work on their projects at home.
   Rita Smith, also a seventh-grader, chose the cost efficiency comparison between solar energy and wind energy.
   “I wanted to see which one was better than the other and would save more money on bills. I did this project because it will help people to save money — it’s about saving money.”
   She hypothesized that solar energy would save more, and she concluded this to be correct, based on her study. Smith also had charts and documentation of her project.
   Seventh grade Abby Papke did her project on whether the pitch would change on a musical instrument, based on the room temperature. She plays the flute in band, and she said that they have to tune their instruments when in the band room practicing before a concert, and again when they go on stage. This prompted her to do her research on the topic.
   As Papke picked up her flute and played some notes, she demonstrated that her hypothesis was indeed true, and her scientific inquiry documentation backed up her theory.