Not every public school participates in the annual Simcoe County Regional Science and Technology Fair.
But at W.H. Day Elementary School in Bradford West Gwillimbury, participation is part of the emphasis on S.T.E.M. – Science, Technology, Engineering, Math – that encourages students to explore.
“It’s super important to involve all the students in pursuing their own options or ideas in science,” said teacher Tanya Habib-Hammond. “By giving the students an open-ended opportunity, like the science fair,” she said, they are encouraged to explore different fields, in the life sciences, health, engineering and tech sectors.
The whole idea of research and experimentation, she said, “allows the students to get hands on. It fosters an interest in science and technology” – an interest that can open the doors to future job possibilities.
Habib-Hammond introduced the concept to her students. “We showed them videos, we gave them examples, we talked about previous year projects, then we showed them the guidelines,” she said. And then it was up to the kids themselves to pick a topic, and run with it.
Like Grade 5 student Jeremy Chan, who chose the topic of antibiotic resistance.
“I thought it was a great idea, so I said go with it,” said Habib-Hammond.
And Chan did – coming up with a project that won a silver medal in Human & Health Sciences (Elementary Division), and a special award for “outstanding project display,” at the science and technology fair held at Bear Creek Secondary School in Barrie.
“I kept asking myself, why are bacteria and diseases getting stronger, more difficult to kill?” said Chan. He researched the field, and the history of antibiotics – and came to the realization that steps that prevent the spread of disease may be critical, while new antibiotics are being developed.
“In order to buy time, we need to use what we have right now,” Jeremy said.
His experiment looked at ways to block a key factor in the spread of germs: sneezing.
“I tested how far a sneeze could go,” he said, and looked at ways to limit that spread. He found that a simple face mask, that fits over the nose and mouth, was one of the best protective options available.
Where he was really innovative was in his presentation. “I decided to be creative and have more visual stuff,” Jeremy explained. He created a video, and made it interactive, asking viewers to respond, and kept a daily tally of their responses.
“Jeremy always takes it above and beyond expectations,” said Habib-Hammond, noting the student did another project for the regular curriculum, creating a video on transforming kinetic energy into electrical energy that was “very cool!”
Jeremy himself is looking at a career in science and medicine – although he’s by no means limiting his options. The Grade 5 student also participates in figure skating, and track and field.
As for his prize-winning research, Jeremy said, “I might want to continue the project, but put it into more detail for next year” – taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the science and technology fair.