The Forsythe Middle School community is gearing up for its annual science fair, which organizers boast as the largest fair of its type in the state.
Students are finalizing projects for the school-wide event slated for noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 14. Organizers are expecting to have 240 student projects from 280 students which will be featured in the gymnasium and lab areas of the school. The event is free and open to the public.
The fair has been an annual event at the school for as long as science teacher Dan Ezekiel can remember ñ and he’s been part of it for 23 years.
“I think science fairs are just so important,” said Ezekiel, who works with other science teachers at the school and is curriculum chairman of the science program at Forsythe. ” I see their eyes light up and they tell me about their project. I don’t think you get turned onto science by doing a worksheet.”
He noted that science fairs prepare students for the technical jobs of the 21st Century. “They’re working on projects; they’re answering questions,” he added. “If we can experience these, that’s the gift that keeps on giving. They own the knowledge that they learn with their science project. Every kid is a winner.”
Ezekiel said the project types don’s change a lot over the years, but how students approach them does.
“There are cycles and fads,” he said, but the fair is still about “kids thinking up creative ideas and learning something.” The most difficult thing for students, he said, is “getting started and taking the first step. Kids come with all different levels of experience and interest in science.”
Students can work individually or in pairs on their project. Teachers start in the fall encouraging students to think about topics for their projects. Sixth-graders are required to participate; seventh- and eighth-graders can participate if they wish; some teachers offer extra credit.
Project categories include either experiments or models and collections. Some 36 students will receive awards for their projects: first through sixth place in each category and grade are awarded prizes and those categorized in the top 20 percent of projects receive honorable mentions based on judges’ scores. An Ipod drawing is being offered this year for seventh- and eighth-graders who turn in a completed project to encourage participation.
As an added incentive, the 36 winners will go to the Detroit Science Center for a field trip this spring, courtesy of the Forsythe PTSO.
Parents Karen Jacobson and Robin Hess are co-chairing this year’s event.
“This has been the largest single school science fair in the state of Michigan. The judges really put a lot of time into it,” said Jacobson. She said one of her favorite projects from past fairs was a 3D model of the landscape of Ann Arbpor as formed by icebergs from the ice age.
Hess said the projects are as diverse as the students and their ideas. Some of the past projects have included experiments with fluorescent bulbs and mold as well as models of solar/lunar eclipses, solar power and organic eggs.
“It’s very interesting,” Hess said. “It has all different kinds of topics. You can’t go through it without finding something of interest.”
The fair involves not only students, but community members as well. Parents and local businesses provide food for the 60 judges who volunteer their time to review the student projects and give ribbons and medals for the best-done efforts. Still others offer coupons and gifts. High school students are on hand to add up judges’ score sheets. And parent volunteers help to set up and monitor the exhibit areas. In all, there are some 80 volunteers from the Forsythe community who help with the fair, Jacobson said.
And, as a light-hearted moment, Forsythe performing arts teacher Eric Purcell dresses up each year as Albert Einstein for the occasion.
The Forsythe event is promoted around the community, but especially at feeder elementary schools of Wines, Abbot, Haisley and Lakewood so that younger students can develop an early interest in science.
Although the PTSO continues to donate money for the science fair, the closing of Pfizer and a tough economy have affected the event as well. Pfizer used to donate $1,000 to the fair and organizers have been unable to replace donations from a local restaurant that, for years provided lunch for the judges and volunteers. But Jacobson and Hess say they hope the event will continue to be just as good and that others come forward to help with in-kind contributions for future years.
Some of the Forsythe students will also take their projects to the regional Southeastern Michigan Science Fair, which takes place at Washtenaw Community College on Saturday, March 13 from noon to 4 p.m. It features student projects from grades six through 12 from Washtenaw and the surrounding counties of Livingston, Monroe, Hillsdale, and Lenawee.
If you go
What: The annual Forsythe Science Fair, featuring projects of experiments, models and collections by Forsythe Middle School students.
When: Free and open to the public from noon to 4 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 14. Awards are given out at 2 p.m.
Where: Forsythe Middle School, 1655 Newport Road, Ann Arbor.
Two project types: Experiments: Students design a project to answer a question based on a hypothesis, decide on variables, gather and interpret data, write an experimental report and make a display) or Models and Collections which could be a demonstration, a model with a detailed explanation (for example, a river watershed), or a researched description of how something works (for example, solar power, a guitar amplifier, a deadbolt lock).
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