DEKALB—Students at Kaneland Harter Middle School are solving problems, thinking independently and raising the bar for future science classes.
On Feb. 13, Kaneland eighth-graders gathered to showcase their science projects at the second annual Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Science Fair. Out of the 343 student projects, 68 were selected to compete in the school science exposition. Fifty judges consisting of community members, Kaneland administrators and School Board members, and parents rated the inquiry-based projects according to several criteria developed by professionals affiliated with the Illinois Junior Academy of Science. Of the 68 local exhibitors, 37 will advance to the regional competition of the Illinois Junior Academy of Science (IJAS) Fair at Northern Illinois University (NIU) in March.
Students developed their own projects, completed independent research, performed various experiments, analyzed data and formed conclusions based on their findings. The creative, insightful projects ranged from an analysis of local water quality to developing biodiesel fuels to detecting background radiation. “It’s up to each student to design a unique project,” said Ryan Wlodek, teacher and science fair coordinator
“The unit of study prepares students to problem solve, think critically, and apply their knowledge to new situations. It’s teaches kids how to think,” Wlodek said. “Teaching kids content is important; however, it is also necessary to teach critical thinking skills to prepare them for future careers that do not exist and problems that have yet to be encountered.”
In some cases, students proved their hypotheses correct, but in others they were shown to be false. In every instance, student exhibitors demonstrated a deep understanding of their research and easily communicated their findings to judges and spectators. As one student put it, “I definitely aimed as high as I could. I enjoy physics and chemistry and found this project to be fun and exciting.”
On March 22, the excitement will continue as the following Kaneland students attend the IJAS Regional Science Fair at NIU with other students in the region: Alex Montalbano, Kaitlyn Becker, Ian Stoll, Rachel Wozniak, Robbie Dudzinski, Jessica Tiv, Jessica Shell, Zach Farris, Bella Vargas, Ysabelle Simbol, Amanda Eckstrom, Jeff Wachter, Autumn Georgi, Katie Moore, Ava Mandele, Brennan Hare, Olivia Goodenough, Drew Gould, Tim Rosko, Lexi Abruzzo, Sam Webster, Trevor Cannon, Bryce Burton, Hunter Smith, Carson Wallace, Bridget McCracken, Alyssa Lech, Gabrielle Faletto, Peyton Heiser, Trevor Jones, Nicholas Rauwolf, Brian Bartholomew, Ben Purcell, Grant Schaaf, Robert Berrios, Sandra Gale and Tiffany Castracion.