It’s Not Weird, It’s Science – at Mountain Avenue Elementary

Photos by McKenna MIDDLETON
Photos by McKenna MIDDLETON

By McKenna MIDDLETON, intern

On Jan. 24, parents, students, teachers and community members gathered at Mountain Avenue Elementary School for a night that proved just how fun science can be. The sixth annual Mountain Avenue Elementary School Science Fair featured projects from students of all grade levels and varying topics of interest. Attendees of the Family Fun Night milled around the school’s cafeteria to view the student-created projects and enjoyed the additional displays.

The event has grown immensely since its inaugural year thanks to the enthusiasm of the students and the willingness of parents to contribute to the fair’s success. With over 210 participants, this year is the biggest science fair Mountain Avenue Elementary has hosted. Students were encouraged to create a project based on a topic of their choice. They were permitted to work alone, in pairs or in groups. Many students chose projects that expanded upon something they learned in their class. For example, as the sixth graders are currently learning about alternative energy, some students centered their experiments on related topics such as solar ovens. Others focused on merging other interests with science such as cooking or drawing.
“The purpose of the event is for kids to be excited about science and to have fun,” said event chair Dr. Jackie Bodnar. “A textbook is reading about science rather than doing it. You can’t, in my opinion, teach science well without actually doing it hands-on. Kids are naturally curious and this brings the science to life.”

In addition to the impressive collection of student projects, the fair guests shared their love of science. This included the Mars Rover, a planetarium show, engineering room and mission to Mars room, all sponsored and hosted by Mountain Avenue Elementary School parents.

“A lot of parents here work at JPL and USC. It’s a great resource. It makes this a true family event,” Bodnar said.

The event also attracted the assistance of Clark Magnet High School’s robotics team 696 who brought their robot to demonstrate to elementary school students. Volunteers from the Crescenta Valley High School Academy of Science and Medicine led interactive science experiments during the fair as well.

Each student who participated in the fair received a medal and certificate as well as a prize of their choice. The projects were not judged, as the creators of the fair wanted the focus to be on enjoyment rather than competition. However, 13 projects will move on to the county level. Last year, two sixth graders moved on, but since there are 27 sixth grade entries this year, those projects will be judged on which will move on to the L.A. County Fair.

Mountain Avenue Elementary School’s science fair is just one of the ways the school has been working to get students more excited about STEM related topics. Students regularly participate in hands-on science labs related to their studies. Additionally, this year, fifth grade science teacher Christina Haydt created the school’s first Science Club. The club has had immediate success with over 125 participants in the first year.

“The club came from the kids’ enthusiasm,” Haydt said. “Our purpose is to get the kids excited and learning about new things they normally wouldn’t learn about in class.”

The club of fourth through sixth graders hosts parent volunteers once a month to teach the students an interactive lesson in their area of expertise. Haydt has created a lineup of speakers for this year that includes discussions about everything from astronomy to anatomy. The group has also planned a family field trip to the Discovery Cube.

The Mountain Avenue Science Fair reflected the tireless efforts of the school’s faculty and parents in integrating science into the lives of the students. The event was a success in showing not only students, but the La Crescenta community as a whole, that science is fun.

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