Tommie Barfield Elementary School was invaded by a host of budding scientists on December 19, when the school held its annual Science Day. Every grade level participated in its own science-based activities, culminating in the fifth-grade Science Fair Exhibition in the school’s multi-purpose room. Additionally, two members of Collier County Public Schools District Science Department — Ryan “Mr. Science” Westberry and Linda DeLuca — were also on hand for open scientific demonstrations in the media center.
At TBE, science is a priority, and students begin learning the scientific method in Kindergarten. Teachers lead classroom experiments, generating questions through discussion, helping children test their hypotheses and explaining how data is collected and analyzed. According to the fifth-grade science teacher Mabel Pena, this makes for success by the time the students get to her classroom.
“We talk a lot about the process, and feel it is important for them to know how to do it from beginning to end,” she explains.
During TBE’s Science Day, this was demonstrated when Kindergarteners observed matter changing from a liquid to a solid; when the first-grade and second-grade classes showed their parents their classroom science experiments; when third graders created snow; when the fourth grade discussed its research project; and when fifth graders exhibited their individual science fair projects.
Every fifth-grade student choses his or her owntopic for a project, and the teachers guide them through the process. They use the website sciencebuddies.org as a jumping off point. Students take a survey on the site about their interests and receive a list of possible projects based on the responses they give.
“It is all about personal involvement and hands-on activities… tapping into what they like,” Pena says. “They take more ownership in things when they put their hands on them.”
For example, Hailey Cartwright’s project — “Blue Crabs for Dinner” — documents which type of bait lures and catches the most blue crabs in the southwest Florida backwater. While she hypothesized fresh mullet would bring in the biggest catch, her data showed raw chicken brought the most blue crab to her pots. Hailey’s mom, Lisa, was even surprised by the results: “We all learned a lot from it.”
For Pena and the other teachers at TBE that is what studying science is all about. She adds, “You have to challenge them and make it fun.”
The district’s Westberry and DeLuca — who spend a great deal of their time interacting with teachers and developing curriculum — applaud the efforts at TBE and the involvement of the students. “These events really stress the importance and the fun of science to the kids,” says Westberry. “We would love to be to do this more often.