HTC 4th-5th graders get to showcase science skills

Judges move around the projects at the Holy Trinity Elementary School Science Fair Thursday morning in West Point. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

Dostalek, Hellman win top awards for drone and erosion studies


FORT MADISON – It’s a year of more firsts for Holy Trinity Catholic elementary students.

Just five months into their new digs in West Point, fourth and fifth grade science students on Thursday participated in their first science fair in the building’s new collaborative learning space on the second floor.

The projects were then opened to public viewing as part of National Catholic Schools Week.

The addition of the younger students was part of the school’s enhanced science program which includes Science Wednesday.

Fourth grade teacher Paula Sholl said the Science Wednesday with retired teacher Ernie Schiller helps focus science with younger students. .

“We just decided why not include them as they start to learn it. When they get to high school it’s promoted big time as well, so they would be ready and more experienced,” Sholl said.

She said the fair was optional for fourth and fifth graders, but she said only a few didn’t participate.

Some of the toughest hurdles were giving the presentation, but she said the students practiced and went over the presentations to get over the nerves..

Sixth grade teacher Linda Peitz said data collection and graphing are a components of STEM (Science Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) activities.

Mason Roach, an HTC 4th grader tells Judge Clay Steele from the Lee County Conservation District, about the difference in flame life of candles in Mason jars with different levels of water at Thursday’s HTC Elementary Science Fair. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

“That’s science and math – compiling data and then finding averages whatever the case may be,” Peitz said.

She said it was also a good opportunity to introduce the students to scientific procedure as part of the Science Wednesday.

“That was new to the fourth graders this year, so maybe it’s a little more difficult for them to get into following the scientific procedure when they get into something like this. But I think they all did a wonderful job, truthfully.”

Mason Roach did an experiment with how long a candle flame would last in a sealed jar with different levels of water in it. He said applications could be used in fire suppression, or even survival training when fire is needed.

He told judge Clay Steele, of the Lee County Conservation District, that he really wanted to do something with magnets and graphing, but settled for a project a little easier to swallow.

Other projects looked at what popcorn popped the best, training mice in mazes, “fruit mummification” and the ever-popular Mentos and Coke experiment.

Schiller said this is the third year for the elementary fair for sixth graders and some fifth graders.

“This year we opened up to have a fair not for just sixth graders, but fourth, fifth and sixth, so when the kids get into high school they should have a good background of what it takes to do a good project” Schiller said.

“Entry level science, doing their own thing, and trying to figure out what scientists do. That’s the concept.”

On Feb. 5, the system will have a Holy Trinity Science night and the elementary students will be invited. After that, the sixth graders and above can have their projects graded at next level competitions.

Schiller said the fourth graders have really adapted to the concepts and put the presentation boards together at the school. He said parents helped with the projects at home, but it was important for the students to put the boards together on their own at school.

“I think what they’ve done here will instill confidence in them going forward, even in other classes… and when the run for President,” Schiller said.

A total of 36 projects were judged with 13 from 6th grade, 11 from 5th grade and 12 from 4th grade. The top two projects were awarded to Aiden Dostalek, who had a project looking at the efficiency of drones, and Ellie Hellman’s project on soil erosion.

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