Science Expo Fosters Students’ Curiosity

Science Expo Fosters Students’ Curiosity photo
At F.E. Bellows Elementary School, third- through fifth-graders – who had been conducting extensive scientific research over the course of several weeks – showcased their final projects during the annual Science Expo on March 14-15. 

The students displayed their posterboards in the school gymnasium, where a panel of judges – including teachers, scientists, engineers and community members –shared the students’ scientific accomplishments and critiqued their work. While only fourth- and fifth-graders were judged on their projects, all students were challenged to successfully demonstrate use of the scientific method in a rigorous manner. They needed to ask a question on a topic of interest, construct a hypothesis, test their hypothesis through an experiment, analyze the data and make a conclusion before presenting their projects.  

“It offered a multidimensional way for students to really grow and experience different things they will need in the real world whether they become scientists or not,” said Kathy Last-Barney, a research scientist and co-coordinator of the Science Expo.

Principal Michael Scarantino said that while the science projects were not a curriculum requirement, the students were eager to participate in the Science Expo, which has been a long-standing tradition at F.E. Bellows. They had the opportunity to conduct their own experiments at home, work with partners or individually and showcase their projects at school. The top eight fourth-graders and the top eight fifth-graders advanced to compete at the Tri-County Science and Technology Fair, to be held on April 28 at White Plains Senior High School. The regional science fair brings together more than 250 student-scientists from Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties who showcase their exhibits before a team of judges in their respective categories. 

“At this critical age, children begin to understand the scientific process: that things don’t just appear magically, that things happen for a reason,” said Marc Karell, an engineer and co-coordinator of the Science Expo at F.E. Bellows. “This is one of the few educational areas where we encourage parents to work with the children, not to dominate, as the children need to learn. This is something the parents and children could work on together. It brings the family together.” 

Throughout the experience, the students were encouraged to collect data, apply their math and science skills to their projects and learn something new in the process. Fourth-grader Lily Fauci, who donned a “rocket scientist” sweater, said she conducted her research on aquaponics after a summer vacation trip to Walt Disney World’s greenhouse sparked her curiosity. 

“I like science,” said Fauci, who advanced to compete at the Tri-County Science and Technology Fair. “I grew plants with aquaponics, which is when fish help plants grow. After weeks of monitoring plants and tanks, the goldfish had the best results. Not only did their tank grow the most plants, they were also the largest and first to grow.” 

In other experiments, students researched how screen time affects their sleep, calculated how many helium balloons it takes to lift an average fifth-grader, and tested how long it takes to grow crystals and plants.