Annual science fair provides dual learning opportunity for students

Perkins students of all ages practice social and communication skills while presenting science projects

A teacher hands a student an award for her science project.

Lower School student Neveah accepts a certificate of achievement for her astronomy project.

March 28, 2018

Flanked by pictures of snakes and spiders, Ashley, a 19-year-old Secondary Program student at Perkins School for the Blind, explained her psychological hypothesis to a small group of teachers and staff.

“I think over time, people outgrow their fears and develop new ones to take their place,” she said.

To test her thesis, Ashley had asked people around campus to fill out a questionnaire with the hope of learning what made people afraid at different points in their lives and how those fears changed over time.

“It’s interesting how fear evolves,” she continued.

For her data collection project — put together for the school’s annual Science Fair —  Ashley was awarded a certificate of achievement. But she wasn’t the only budding scientist to participate in this year’s event. Throughout Dwight Hall last week, her peers from the Secondary Program and Lower School presented scientific projects of their own, exploring different hypotheses relating to the fields of biology, chemistry, astronomy and more.

In its 12th year now, the Perkins Science Fair gives students the opportunity to show off what they’ve learned in class, by working either individually or as part of a team to complete a project. It’s also a chance for students to sharpen their social interaction and communication skills, both crucial components of the Expanded Core Curriculum, said Kate Fraser, a Secondary Program teacher.

“They’re learning how to present to an audience, how to greet people, how to say please and thank you and how to look at the person they’re talking to. They’re working on so, so many skills,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for students to come and put everything together.”

Throughout the fair, the broad nature of science was on full display. One team of students utilized eggshell to replicate tooth enamel in order to learn, and explain to curious attendees, how various liquids can affect dental health. Another team tracked how different chemicals impact the properties of water.

Two other students brought their love of sports to the lab in an attempt to test how much hangtime a football needs to go through the goalposts from different points on a field. Fraser was glad to see students design experiments around their personal areas of interest.

“It’s great because the students may learn about a specific item of interest to them, which might someday become a hobby, or even a career,” added Fraser. “It helps spark an interest in a specific area of science.”

Ashley came up with the idea to trace the evolution of fear because she wants to study psychology in college and is interested in “what makes people tick.”

“I want to help people figure out the ‘why,’” she said. She did admit, however, that the data collection effort was her second idea. Her first?

“I was more interested in making something explode,” she said, laughing.