Does social media affect your health? Is it possible to make a floatable phone that does not allow water to get into the case? Does flour affect the height of a cookie? The answers to these and many other science questions are on display in the Saints Peter & Paul gymnasium as the 2017 8th grade Science Fair unfolds. The Fair is an annual event assigned and encouraged by 7th and 8th grade science teacher, Mrs. Karen Christopherson. It is her hands-on, interactive classroom that inspires the creativity and critical thinking skills on display at the Fair.
Mrs. Christopherson has been at Saints Peter & Paul Elementary School for a number of years but not all of them in her current position of science teacher. Starting as an Aftercare aide and Sunday School teacher in 2005, Mrs. Christopherson became Aftercare Director the next year, while serving as an Instructional Aide, starting in 2007. Mrs. Christopherson’s love of science and her exceptional knowledge of the subject matter made her the natural choice to teach Middle School Science when the position opened in 2010. Mrs. Christopherson credits the generosity, program and skills of former teacher, Susan Pritchard, who helped her immensely the first year and a half that she taught. "This is Ms. Pritchard’s lab, her equipment that she passed on to me. Her spirit lives on and there is still a lot of her around here." Mrs. Pritchard taught for 35 years at SSPP and the science lab has a plaque outside the door commemorating her years of service to the school.
This is the 8th year Mrs. Christopherson has overseen the science fair and, according to Mrs. Christopherson, it has changed. "Over the years it has gotten more personal because students frequently pick a hobby or extracurricular interest." In October students begin the rigorous process by researching and choosing a project. It is a multi-layer project that includes a completed project, a written paper, a display board and an oral report on their findings. It is a lot of work and Mrs. Christopherson is aware that her young students can become overwhelmed. Some of them seek advice from former students while others rely on the patience and encouragement of their teacher. Mrs. Christopherson loves the Science Fair because of all of the skills her students learn. They learn, among other skills, "Public speaking skills, communication skills, how to use formal language, time management, and computer skills".
The Science Fair is judged by local scientists and there are first, second and third place in each of the two sections of 8th grade science. The judges do not see the names of the students, simply the display board and the written report. The judges look for creativity of questions of what is being tested, how well the results are communicated and if the method used was scientific.
The 8th grade Science Fair is an SSPP event that all will enjoy. Since it changes year to year you can enjoy it every year. It is a credit to Mrs. Christopherson and her love of science that her students are inspired throughout the year in her class.