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Cramming in science

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer
Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal Dayton Valley Library manager Theresa Kenneston talks with students Hailey Ortez, 11, middle, and Lorna Richardson, 15, about their science fair projects on Tuesday at the Dayton Library.
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For a student, working on a science fair project is a lot more fun than studying from a book, hearing a lecture, and, certainly, taking a test.

It does, however, have its drawbacks.

What kind of a project to do? Who to choose for a partner? And where to study together, research the subject, and test hypotheses?

The first two problems students have to solve on their own, but for Dayton Intermediate School students, the third has already been solved.

From 2 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Feb. 14, the first Dayton Library Science Fair Cram will be held at the Dayton Valley Library. Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders can use library supplies, computers and other items to complete their projects.

Theresa Kenneston, Dayton Valley Library manager, came up with the idea after watching her own children work on their school science projects.

“I’ve had three students go through the middle school, so I have been aware of the problems kids have,” she said. “They have trouble coordinating, meeting at each other’s homes, trying to get the project done.”

Kenneston also said having the Science Fair Cram at the library gives each child a chance to do be successful at the fair.

“I saw that some kids had resources, and other kids didn’t,” she said. “This provides a safe place for kids to meet when they’re working in groups, as well as evens the playing field for kids who might not have the resources at home.”

Kenneston believes the science cram will lead to better participation in the science fair.

Students will all have access to glue sticks, markers, computer resources, colored paper and adult guidance.

“We’ll have a sample board up to help them with their questions, hypotheses and other important aspects of their projects,” Kenneston said.

Dusti Houk, who teaches eighth-grade science at DIS, said the hands-on projects give the students a better understanding than just being taught from a book.

The school’s sixth science fair is 5:30-7 p.m. Feb. 22 at the school’s gym, and will be judged by Dayton High School juniors and seniors.

“The same kids that went through the science fair are now judging it,” Houk said.

She said they were trying to get the children to do more advanced projects “to stretch their brains.”

But it’s still the student’s choice, Houk added.

“We have had students doing science fair projects where they find out what type of sled goes down a hill fastest,” she said. “We’ve had in the past where students have made vanilla pudding and put food coloring in it and found out if the eyes played a role in what others taste.”

Eighth-grader Amanda Lovelady, 14, and her partner will try to discover what factors affect the bounce of a dropped ball. She said the choice came from her love of sports.

“I like playing handball and football and everything, so I picked one with balls,” she said. “Projects are kind of fun, and you get to experiment with things.”

Fellow eighth-grader Matia Spencer, 14, admits her project isn’t particularly inspiring. She and a partner will test the effectiveness of homemade cleaners such as vinegar and baking soda against the brand Shout on carpet stains.

“Me and my partner wanted to do something kind of easy because we’re lazy,” she said.

Houk said the most important thing students get from working on science projects is the experience of using the scientific method.

“They learn you don’t always have to prove your hypothesis; you might have to go back and tweak your work to prove your hypothesis,” she said.

— Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.

The Science Cram

WHEN: 2 to 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday through Feb. 14.

WHERE: 321 Old Dayton

Valley Road

CALL: (775) 246-6212

The Science Fair

WHEN: 5:30-7 p.m. Feb. 22

WHERE: Dayton Intermediate School gym, 315 Old Dayton Valley Road

CALL: (775) 246-6250