Young Scientists Converge at Morningside for Annual IUSD Science Fair
Inglewood students displayed creative scientific thinking in a wide range of projects at the Inglewood Unified School District’s 26th annual district-wide science fair, held on Saturday, June 3, 2006.
The day before, the 1st through 3rd place winners from each school assembled poster board displays, photographs, props, abstracts, and journals at Morningside High School in preparation for the event. On Saturday morning, they waited patiently in front of their projects, quietly rehearsing what they would say to the judges. Projects were judged by teams of Raytheon scientists and Inglewood teachers.
“This is one of the ways we can close the achievement gap because it gives children the opportunity to become proficient at the scientific method at an early age,” said Alma Davis, IUSD Director of Instruction, thanking volunteers for their time.
Project categories for the upper grades (6-12) included physical science, engineering, life science, behavioral science, and botany. Originally offered to students in grades 6-12, the science fair was expanded to include grades K-5 seven years ago in an effort to encourage students of all ages to engage in the scientific process. This was the first year that elementary school students were required to complete a journal about their projects.
For Susan Atkins, coordinator of the K-5 science fair, the judges are important role models for children. “Part of the value of doing this competition is that when students are interviewed by the judges, and they see how young some of the judges are, they can see themselves as scientists,” she said.
Kindergarten teacher Wendy Frandell, who served as a judge alongside Raytheon engineer Jocelyn Hicks-Garner, enjoyed working in a team to judge the projects. “I had the grade level experience and my partner had the technical aspects of science,” she said. “We made a good team.”
“The science fair gives [children] a chance to express themselves and let their little minds wander,” said Cecilia and Alven Alexander, parents of Duanna Alexander, a kindergartner from Woodworth Elementary School. “It also gives them a chance to see other projects so they can improve on theirs next year.”
Morningside High School chemistry teacher Brian Clamp agrees. “What I like about science is that it allows [students] to demonstrate creative thinking. You see them make a guess, prove that it’s wrong or right, graph it out, demonstrate it, and explain it,” he said. “It also opens up a lot of career paths that students can choose from.”
Out of a group of six students from Monroe Middle School, all six have their sights set on science careers ranging from engineering, astronomy, and computer science, to quantum physics, psychology, and mechanics. Eighth grader Ca’Ron Fowlkes from Parent School wants to be a cardiovascular surgeon. “My dad once told me that there are not a lot of African American doctors, and I want to change that,” he said.
Monroe students Juan Plascencia, Steve Melgar, and Jonathan Davila placed 3rd in the engineering category for their project on robot efficiency. “The main purpose of the project was to find methods of making the robot more efficient,” said Juan. “We did that by modifying the circuitry and adding new devices such as resisters to some of the parts of the robot while at the same time remaining on a low budget. Our teacher, Ms. Genota, helped by buying some of the parts for us.”
Oak Street School 6th graders Guadalupe Juarez and Jessica Diaz turned to recent events for their project topic—“How Do Tsunamis Form?”—which placed 2nd in the 6th grade life science category.
A team of 11th graders from Morningside High School, Jesus Garcia and Jose Neri, placed 1st in the behavioral science category for their project on brain hemispheres. “I really didn’t know we had a dominant side [of the brain],” said Jesus, who does a behavioral science project every year and is interested in pursuing a career in psychology. “Every time I learn something different,” he said.
When asked what he likes about the science fair, 4th grader Christopher Edwards from Parent School responded, “I like to win trophies.”
In the assembly following the judging, special trophies were awarded to students who placed in the top three for each grade level (K-5) or science category (6, 7-8, 9-12). Student winners in grades 6-12 also received cash awards sponsored by Raytheon.
Six years ago, Inglewood High School science teacher Olivet Cunningham approached Raytheon’s Charles Rampton with a request for support. Since then, Raytheon has generously supported the IUSD science fair with cash awards for students and volunteer judges.
Taking home the perpetual trophies for the most wins this year were: Frank D. Parent Scshool (K-5), Monroe Middle School (grade 6 and grades 7-8) and Morningside High School (9-12). At the close of the ceremony, a special recognition was given to Alma Davis, who is retiring this year.
“Science is probably one of the most important disciplines, and sometimes people tend to overlook it,” said Patricia Richardson, the Morningside High School science teacher who coordinates the 6-12 science fair. “This is becoming a problem in our society because we are not producing young people interested in going into math and science careers. Hopefully, because of their involvement, students will not see science as just for so-called “smart” people. If you have the desire and are willing to take the challenge, it can be mastered by anyone. The science fair gives young people inspiration and the belief that they can accomplish their goals.”
Unified School District
Page updated 11.27.06