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Students ‘get charged’ about science

CLARENDON HILLS – Many amateur scientists have laid awake at night, pondering how many potatoes are needed to conduct electricity or what makes a jelly doughnut “explode.”

But thanks to several Prospect Elementary School students, closure has arrived.

Students in grades K-5 participated in Prospect’s fifth annual science fair Feb. 27, a fitting end to the school’s yearly science week.

Dozens of students submitted projects for the science fair, attempting to answer questions like “does cold water freeze faster,” “does storage temperature affect popcorn popping” and “which material is the best conductor?”

During the fair, students got a chance to practice presentation skills.

“They do a great job, and when you walk around and look at all the work that they put into the boards and projects, they really do a great job researching and explaining,” said Barb Maduzia of the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO).

“It’s a great way for them to get comfortable, too, talking to a large group and explaining what they’ve learned.”

Although the theme of this year’s Prospect science week was electricity. Maduzia said students could create – or, in some cases, destroy – anything they liked.

Fifth graders Jamie Pecilunas and Hannah Seymour of Clarendon Hills created “exploding donuts,” mimicking an erupting volcano effect by combining hydrogen peroxide, soap and yeast to create the overflowing foam.

“Everyone makes volcanoes, and we thought we could make a doughnut,” Pecilunas said. “We thought of it as a jelly doughnut because the jelly explodes out of it.”

The duo created the jelly doughnut by blowing up balloons and surrounding the balloon with paper mache casting. The students couldn’t have it explode inside the multipurpose room, so a video of the explosion was shown next to the project.

“It took a while to get it to work because we had to do the right measurements,” 10-year-old Seymour said.

Fourth graders Vandana Patel and Stella Kaplanov of Clarendon Hills harnessed the electricity theme in their project, “electric Play-Doh,” using the dough as a conductor to power small devices.

Fellow classmate Lydia Breslow and third grader Grace Thompson similarly studied electric currents in “How to Make a Potato Battery,” discovering that voltage output barely fluctuates when using two to six potatoes.

“We found out it only takes two potatoes,” Thompson said, explaining the processes as the current flowed through the spud.

Several other projects took a fun approach to varying scientific method.

In fourth graders Parker Peterson and Katherine Fullerton’s “egg in a bottle,” a hard-boiled egg rested at the top of a bottle. At first, nothing happened. The students then applied heat by dropping a match into the bottom of the bottle.

“This makes lower pressure inside the bottle and greater pressure outside the bottle,” Peterson said.

Increasing the temperature and pressure creates an external force and causes the egg to fall to the bottom of the bottle, Peterson said, to the delight of the crowd.

During science week,
students in each grade also participated in different electricity workshops during classes, and took part in a daily trivia contest. In years’ past, Fawley said the school studied other themes such as water and space.

“Electricity is such a hot topic today as far as conservation and this year we had the theme because it gave us an educational topic that they could learn so much about,” Fawley said.

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