Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman hosts science fair for local middle schools

Illustration: Ruth Hwang

Other potential headlines: Science fair connects Whitman to local middle schools

For middle school students of Walla Walla and College Place, this Sunday represents a unique chance to pursue and display independent research projects. Students could research whatever they wanted, and the results range from the airplane aerodynamics, to sound waves, to phobias.

The science fair, which will be held in Reid Ballroom from 1:00 to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 22, represents the first of it’s kind. Most schools in Walla Walla cannot afford the time or effort needed for school science fairs, so Science Outreach Coordinator Mary Burt decided to organize one.

After working for months on their individual projects, the 11 middle-school students attending will get a chance to have their work critiqued by six judges: Science Professors Kurt Hoffman, Dalia Rokhsana, Andrea Dobson, Tim Machonkin, Marion Gotz, and Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations Rachna Sinnott

Burt had the idea to host a middle school science fair because of the positive experiences that science fairs can bring.

“I’ve heard a lot of stories from faculty . . . about how they’ve had such valuable experiences being in science fairs when they were younger and how it was a shame that we didn’t have one here in Walla Walla,” she said.

Burt chose to open up the science fair to middle schoolers because of the connections that Whitman maintains with local middle school science teachers through professional development workshops.  Burt promoted the science fair  to individual teachers and students, as well as in the Union-Bulletin. There was no obligation on either teachers or students to participate, and students were encouraged to participate on a purely volunteer basis.

The participants come from all over the area. A few of the participants hail from Pioneer or Garrison Middle Schools and one participant is home schooled, but seven of the science fair participants are from Sager Middle School in College Place. Science teacher Darin Durand, who offered his students extra credit for applying to the fair, emphasized that while the projects would be a lot of work, they were worth it.

“[Projects are] a nice tool to build a resume . . . The whole point was not to make a ground breaking discovery at this point in their career, but to take the inquisitive question they have and see if they could set up a lab to answer them,” said Durand. “A lot of students were coming back to Myth Busters [for inspiration].”

Many Whitman professors and students offered to help mentor interested middle schoolers so as to not burden middle school teachers with more work. One local student took them up on this offer. Senior Matt Logan, a physics major, helped a seventh grader from Garrison Middle School on a project about sound. When Logan was in sixth grade, he conducted a similar science fair experiment.

“It’s pretty rewarding doing something for someone other than myself. I’m glad that I’m doing it. I like seeing young people who are inspired to do science, not being force-fed. [The seventh grader] was willing to put in time on his own, and he deserved to have someone help him out,” said Logan.

While the science fair is small this year, Burt hopes to see growth. She hopes to look into opening the fair up to high school students in the future.

“This is just the start, our little baby science fair. Maybe next year it will be a toddler science fair. I think there’s a lot of interest, it’s just a matter of figuring out the logistics and making it happen,” she said.

Logan, who will be speaking at the beginning of the science fair, thinks that the science fair will benefit not just the middle school students but Whitman students as well.

“It would be sweet to have some science majors come, and engage [the students] in some scientific dialogue. It will be good for middle schoolers to walk around the science building,” Logan said. “To have a whole building for science is an overlooked benefit of college.”

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