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Science fair takes global look at health

Complete with the usual number of erupting volcanoes and electric currents, Washington Elementary School’s 25th annual science fair was, nevertheless, keenly representative of our times.

Embracing mainstream issues that will no doubt impact the future of the young scientists, 245 participants created 150 exhibits primarily focused on the theme “Healthy Body, Healthy Minds, Healthy Planet.” From oxygen producing trees that absorb carbon dioxide to experiments in solar energy, the science fair, held last Thursday at the school, demonstrated how important environment and health are to these students.

Other topical experiments included the relationship between obesity and heart rate, conventional versus organic foods, energy saving light bulbs, water conservation methods, sugar’s role in nutrition (or lack thereof), germs and agar plates and even an exploration into “future foods.”

Rounding out the theme, Washington’s PTA offered a “Healthy Food Tasting Table,” an exploration into fair trade and organic coffees and vegetables, electronics recycling and a snack bar full of good-for-you treats and juices. All children were encouraged to examine the projects closely by playing various Eye Spy and Eye Spy Jr. games, as they searched to find clues throughout the experiments and document results to win prizes.

“It’s obvious that the concerns and interests of these students are very different then when I was growing-up,” said fair co-organizer Amy Morton. “It’s very exciting to see them take such a conscious interest in their health and the environment.”

Washington is one of the rare schools to have had an annual school-wide science fair for the past 25 consecutive years. The fair was open to entrants from K-5th grades, providing a chance for the entire student body to delve into the world of science. Premised on the principle of inclusiveness, all “Young Scientists” were encouraged to participate through teacher and volunteer efforts both in the classrooms and during a series of four Science Saturdays, when volunteers work with students on various projects.

Initially the Washington Science Fair was a teacher-driven event, but the Washington PTA now sponsors the event and has garnered the support of the entire community.

Every participant wore a Young Scientist T-shirt, adding to the excitement of being involved in the event, which drew hundreds of spectators from throughout the community. Further embracing the community and its cultural heritage, many of the projects were presented in Spanish, as a large portion of the student body is bi-lingual at Washington, one of District 65’s schools offering a Two-way Immersion (TWI) program.

“Though we had many wonderful volunteers who helped to execute the event,” said fair co-organizer Kathryn Evans, “it was undeniably the students who took ownership of the fair through their incredible experiments and studies that made it such a success.” 

Kim Yee is co-president of the Washington School PTA.

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