Middle schoolers to compete

Scientists to help judge science fair

Posted: Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Nearly 50 Juneau scientists will step out of their offices and laboratories today and go back to school.

Scientists from multiple government agencies will help judge the Cedar House science fair today at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School. With topics ranging from goldfish mazes and gum chewing to potato cannons to driving with cell phones, the science fair gives students an opportunity to explore science in a fun way, said science teacher Steve Morley of the school's Cedar House class grouping.

"Middle school kids, their thinking is very different from what adults generally consider normal," Morley said. "So their projects sometimes are very original and very peculiar."

Judging will begin around 9 a.m. in the commons area. The competition will begin with 15 groups - each with about five students - being judged, with one student from each group moving on to the next round. The next round will be whittled to five students, leading to selection of the top three student projects. There will also be a student choice award and a Discovery Southeast award.

The students are required to come up with their own projects and see them through, Cedar House science teacher Gary Campbell said.

"I think any time the students have to use their own initiative to ask questions, find answers, is beneficial," Campbell said.

Bonita Nelson, a biologist and outreach coordinator for the National Marine Fisheries Service's Auke Bay Laboratory, said judging the middle school students is fun because of their enthusiasm for science.

"I like seeing the diversity of the projects with these middle school kids," she said.

"Working with the middle school kids, it's a very exiting event, a very fun event."

Nelson, who also helps judge the Juneau-Douglas High School Science Fair, said the middle school students seem to be more concerned with the wonderment of science rather than capturing a good grade.

"It's not as intense as high school, of course," she said. "It's a little more unbridled, I guess."

Campbell said the science fair would not be possible without the cooperation and expertise of the many local scientists who volunteer.

"We hugely appreciate all of the support that we get from the rest of the community as far as scientists and parents," he said.

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