Faith Christian Debuts Science Fair

Sarah McCurdy studied the absorbent qualities of paper towels.

by Gene Marrano

It was a modest affair this year, taking up only a few tables in the cafeteria, but Faith Christian School in Roanoke County hopes that its student Science Fair will grow into a bigger event as time goes by. 8th grade physics teacher Tracey Minnix (she also teaches 12th graders) said that this year’s fair was the first ever “in the history of the school, as far as I know.” She’s been at Faith Christian for two years.

Students started thinking about their projects in February, after learning about the six-step “Scientific Methods” process of researching a subject. Those steps include a hypothesis, the gathering of materials to be used in an experiment, observing and then making a conclusion. “When I first mentioned it there was kind of a heavy sigh,” chuckled Minnix about her proposal to put on a science fair, “but I think [the students] enjoyed the process.”

8th graders had produced a half dozen reports previously but Minnix felt that selecting a topic, researching it and then coming up with a conclusion via a science fair might help prove to the students that all of that classroom time had paid off. “They responded very positively and enjoyed it,” said Minnix, who had to approve each topic students chose for their science fair projects.

Getting young people interested in science is a tough chore these days; only a handful raised their hands last summer when Minnix asked who had an interest in the subject. “My goal by the end of the year was to have a few more [hands] than that raised… to get them a little bit excited about science. Hopefully that happened.”

Luke Alligood chose to study invisible ink and tried a number of fluids to see which one worked best. He was watching the movie National Treasure, where invisible ink was used on a historical document, when the inspiration occurred. “It seemed like a fun project to do,” said Alligood, who tested six different liquids (fruit juices, wine, etc.)

Wine and blueberries seemed to work best as invisible inks, although wine left behind a telltale smell. Like a typical 8th grader perhaps, Alligood was up to 3 AM the night before the science fair, putting the final touches on his project. “It was fun, especially testing it all,” he said as students set up their projects.

Sarah McCurdy looked at the absorbent qualities of paper towels. “There’s so many [conflicting] ads,” said McCurdy, who is also a member of the Warriors varsity basketball team at the school. She used an eyedropper filled with water to wet each brand of paper towel, then checked the dinner plate it rested on to measure the amount of residue. (The Viva brand appeared to be the winner.)

Using the scientific method, “helps [with] the process of how I go about doing some things,” said McCurdy, who added that she had to “warm up” to science in general. “I’ve had to work at it, but I enjoy it.”

Minnix, who has a degree in biology, said this trial run could become an upper school-wide affair and might lead to participation in juried regional science fairs with other schools. 5th graders could become involved as well. “Hopefully next year,” said Minnix.


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