Science fair turns Willard into laboratory

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By Deb Kadin

Contributing Reporter

Willard Elementary School became a hands-on, eyes-on laboratory for all to experience Friday night as dozens of parents and students came on board for the annual science festival.

For the un-squeamish, there were snakes and skinks to pick up and toads to touch. Those captivated by the wonder of it all could make "safe" static electricity and their own landfills. Those fascinated by their home planet could learn about active and inactive volcanoes along the Pacific Ocean shoreline and assemble their own "Earth" to understand its composition and heat. 

Youngsters wanting to take home a little bit of science made a mini-ecosystem for their teeny tiny fish and their own recycled paper, good enough to draw on.

What attracted a majority of the parents and youngsters to the school was a science fair where 70 youngsters, kindergarten through fourth grade, got hands-on experience in scientific discovery — most, if not all of it, originally created in the comfort of their own home or kitchen. 

Want to know what makes different-colored crayons liquefy at different times? Melt different colors but keep two — black and yellow crayons — as constants in a 230-oven and watch what happens.

Norman Carroll, a first-grader, did that three times and lo and behold, he found each and every time that the black crayon melted in 2 minutes, 35 seconds; the yellow melted in 3 minutes, 5 seconds. 

"I chose it because I thought it was a good experiment," said the 7-year-old, who finds science pretty cool but wants to be a football or hockey player when he grows up.

Using her family as test subjects, Julia Overmyer, a third grader, found that cinnamon candy, like cinnamon-flavored Tic Tacs, does not kill the bacteria that creates bad breath because it is mostly made of sugar.  

"I thought the cinnamon candy would get rid of the bad bacteria that cause bad breath. But real cinnamon does," said Overmyer, who loves science because she gets to do experiments. 

How did she find out that cinnamon candy has no real cinnamon in it? "I looked at the ingredients on the box," said the 8-year-old who wants to become a cardiologist.

When Finley Mattes created "Bendy Bones," he wanted to find out the how calcium plays a role in creating strong bones. He said he put chicken bones in jars containing a solution of water and ammonium and another of vinegar, waited two weeks, and found the vinegar made the bones bend. 

"I did this experiment three times just to be sure," said Mattes, who got help with the materials from his scientist grandfather. "The vinegar ate away the calcium."

Other youngsters demonstrated the electricity in fruit, how quicksand works and how batteries conduct energy.

The Willard Festival of Science has been sponsored for each of its 10 years by the school's PTO. 

"We feel it is a nice adjunct to the curriculum of the school and it lets kids participate in a more casual manner," said Cathie Overmyer, who along with Sara Ward, chaired the event.

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