Experimenting with fun
Science experiments are often a lot of work: they need time and research, require precision and accuracy and take planning and ambition.
For St. John's Lutheran Elementary students, they're also a good time.
"I had fun doing it," sixth-grader Ben Domagala said about his experiment for the school's science fair, held this past week in St. John's Church basement. Every student, grades kindergarten through eighth, conducted an experiment and built a display to show their results.
"It was fun seeing what magnet spacing worked best," sixth-grader Evan Degener said of his experiment studying magnetism and acceleration.
Enjoyment was even one of the judging criteria. "Did they have fun doing it?" judge Tom Brase asked.
Brase, a former St. John's teacher, said that allowing kids to have fun in the classroom is often key to their comprehension.
"Things clicked faster if they had fun," he said.
But the fair wasn't all fun and games. The students also put a lot of work into their projects.
Domagala spent months working with his experiment; he began looking at the effects of lift, drag and weight on sports balls last summer.
Degener had to go through trial and error to get his final product. His first experiment studying water filtration didn't work, and he had to start over with a new experiment three days before the fair.
"It was kind of frustrating," he said.
And, of course, there was a lot of learning involved too. Students practiced using the scientific method to plan their experiments and interpret their results.
They also had to organize their displays well and concisely summarize their results, judge Janet Gehlhar said.
The students didn't have to do all their work alone. Because experiments were done completely outside of the classroom, students got to ask their parents for help.
That collaborative work is something Principal Ben Bain encourages.
"The more involvement a parent has in a child's education," he said, "the better the education will be."
The students' experiments will be on display before and after St. John's Church services Sunday.