A fair shot at science

? Fourth-grade reading class leads to science fair

Jacob Thiessen presents his project during the fourth-grade science fair last Thursday at Hillsboro Elementary School. Jacob created a ?hover craft? using an old compact disc, a balloon, a cap from a dishsoap bottle and a hot glue gun. The science fair grew out of a reading class unit title ?Science Fair,? according to teacher Maura Wiebe. Don Ratzlaff / Free Press

You might be surprised what you can learn at a fourth-grade science fair.

? You can make a homemade lava lamp by combining Mountain Dew, vinegar and an Alka-Seltzer tablet in a plastic bottle.

? Mountain Dew passes through paper nearly three times faster than water or Coke.

? A balloon with some baking soda in it can blow itself up when you attach it to a plastic water bottle half filled with vinegar.

? If you add a few drops of food coloring to separate bowls containing whole milk, butter milk and 2 percent milk, the bowl with butter milk will make the big?gest color swirl when you add some dish soap.

? Chocolate-chip cookie dough won?t rise if you don?t add baking soda, but the majority of classmates preferred the cookie baked without baking soda in a taste test.

? A wheelchair equipped with skinny tires will roll farther than a wheelchair with fat or medium-width tires under the same conditions.

? If you combine the right amounts of glue, Borax and water, it will form a gelatinous substance called ?gak??and you can blow a big bubble with it when you hold the gak to your mouth and exhale hard.

That?s only a sampling of the discoveries 47 fourth-graders shared with the public last week.

Emma Noble made the classic erupting volcano for her science fair project. Don Ratzlaff / Free Press

The two fourth-grade classrooms were abuzz Thursday afternoon as students presented their work with parents, grandparents and other students and teachers.

Surprisingly, the inspiration for a science fair grew out of a reading class rather than a science class.

?This year?s science fair coordinated with a reading unit titled ?Science Fair,?? said Maura Wiebe, who teaches the class. ?We read stories about scientists and other students their age who used the scientific method to ask questions and solve problems.?

The project spanned about five weeks. Students were asked to pick an experiment, then write a hypothesis, a problem, a list of materials, procedures undertaken, the results and a conclusion.

Each of the requirements became elements of a poster board backdrop. Some also added photos and product samples. A few videoed their experiment and showed it to fair visitors on small laptop computers.

?Parents were a part of the whole process,? Wiebe said. ?They were asked to help with the experiment at home.?

Wiebe approved each of the ideas before students got a green light to proceed.

?I thought the kids did a wonderful job,? she said. ?I had lots of positive feedback from parents, too, that they really loved doing this with their children at home.?

This actually is the second year Wiebe?s reading class has staged a science fair.

?We had the science fair last school year in the fall,? she said. ?I had a student teacher who helped somewhat with it when she was in my classroom.?

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