Crooked River Elementary holds a science fair as part of the schools storyline project

by: KEVIN SPERL - Dr. Luminous, aka Allen Beekman, visits with first-grader Tanner Joyce to learn about the earth's position to the sun and the student's 'reasons for the seasons.'

A team of "NASA scientists" visited Crooked River Elementary last Friday to view a wide variety of student science experiments and demonstrations.

Hallways, classrooms, the cafeteria and the gymnasium were filled with evidence of the school's science fair, all part of the curriculum's storyline project, centered on the solar system.

Dr. Luminous, Dr. Von Smith, and Professors Vallerga and Andromeda were witness to volcanos, potato-driven batteries, rubber chicken bones, simple electric motors, black holes and nebulas.

The fifth-graders filled the school's gymnasium with a variety of scientific endeavors, having worked on their projects for the past six weeks.

"The students could choose any topic they liked, as long as it met the standards of our science curriculum," explained teacher Merile Glass.

According to Glass, each student was required to complete a story board that included a hypothesis, a description of procedures, a conclusion and supporting data.

Students sat at tables with their results, nervously awaiting the arrival of the "scientists," prepared to discuss their findings.

"These students need to be prepared to explain scientifically what they are doing," said fifth-grade teacher Stacy Stringer.

Nathan Hall and Damon Shrum were demonstrating the cooling effects of Mentos. Starting with water at approximately 70 degrees, the pair would add five Mentos tablets to the water and, at 5-minute intervals, measure its temperature.

Over time they found that the temperature dropped significantly, proving their hypothesis that the mint chemicals in the candy would do so.

Cierra Naef translated her love for volcanoes into, well, a volcano. Surrounded by second-graders, Naef mixed her "lava formula," consisting of dry ice, baking soda, vinegar, dish soap and red food dye.

"I am always interested in how volcanoes erupt," said Naef, "It's one of the things I love to see and be next to."

As she poured the mixture into her salt dough and Papier Mâché dome, a crowd of second-grade students gathered around the table to witness the 10-minute "eruption."

"Don't do this at home," she warned the students, “Especially without parental supervision.”

Prof. Vallerga, also known as Colleen Vallerga, a retired teacher, works as a consultant, teaching teachers how to incorporate storyline methods into their curriculum.

“I am very impressed with the students’ poise and knowledge,” she said. “This science fair is very kid driven.”

Dr. Luminous, who moonlights as science teacher Allen Beekman at Crook County High School, agreed.

“These students have a very high interest level in what they are doing.”

Matthew Clark wanted to figure out how to bend chicken bones without breaking them, so he soaked them in vinegar for at least three days.

“The vinegar breaks down the calcium in the bones, “he explained. “After that, it leaves only soft tissue, allowing the bones to bend.”

Dr. Von Smith and Prof. Andromeda, known to friends as Joe and Andrea Hoffman, took special note of the amount of time students had spent on their experiments.

“We find this fair to be so interesting,” said Andrea Hoffman, “These students really understand what they are doing.”

Justin Milat and Carson Smith were staging a volcanic race of sorts, creating two, adjacent, volcanic eruptions. The first was a mixture of water, vinegar, dish soap and baking soda, while the second combined water, hydrogen peroxide and yeast.

The data showed that the first mixture erupted more quickly, but not before leaving a massive cleanup in its wake.

“Cleanup in aisle three,” joked Milat, as they took their volcano apart.

Kindergarten through fourth-grade students celebrated their capstone storyline projects throughout the halls and the school cafeteria, presenting research on the planets, meteors and the international space station.

Third-graders Cayson Jamison, Mekiah Cook and Cal Pickhardt built an exhibit that described the international space station and the numerous items attached to its exterior, all while noting that it orbits the earth at over 200 miles per hour.

“We learned a lot about the solar system, like black holes and the space station,” said Pickhardt, “we didn’t know much about the station so this was a good way to do so.”

Brooklyn Wood, Austin Bean, Cole Calhoun and Teagan Frank had taken an interest in black holes, demonstrating how a star could get sucked into one, with gravitational forces so strong none of its light could escape.

“Black holes are everywhere,” said Wood, noting that dying stars typically have 20 times the mass of the sun.

A group of Kindergartners walked throughout the school explaining the concept of “Barbie” bread — small nuggets of bread easily eaten on the space station without getting crumbs everywhere or, most importantly, in the eyes of astronauts.

Garin Nash, Tanner Joyce, Kya Mozingo and Delaney Engstrom displayed a model of the earth, showing its position relative to the sun in each of the four seasons.

“We are the reason for the seasons,” they echoed in unison.

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