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Innovation Day eggs on students to embrace science

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By Deb Hurley Brobst

If learning by doing is the best teacher, then the middle-schoolers at Rocky Mountain Academy of Evergreen learned a lot last Thursday.

Students tested their science projects — everything from dropping eggs 30 feet in carriers to break their fall to creating solar ovens that heat water to creating marble mazes — as part of the third annual Science Innovation Day.

The school’s parking lot and the middle school commons were a hubbub of activity as students moved from challenge to challenge — some watching while others waited to see how their projects would fare in the trials. In addition, students in the younger grades watch some of the activities to get a taste of what they will be doing in a few years.

Science Innovation Day replaces the science fair that most other Evergreen schools participate in. It’s not simply students conducting experiments at home and then explaining their work on posters.

Students in the three grades are given a list of eight challenges to choose from. There are no prizes for the winners, just the satisfaction that they completed the task, some more successfully than others. But failure is a learning experience, too.

The students, who work alone or in teams, keep journals to chronicle their trial and error in solving their challenge. They are required to do a PowerPoint presentation or a poster to explain their work. At the egg drop, for example, several posters were visible, explaining the students’ logic in creating the egg carriers. About 30 teams took on the challenge of creating a vehicle that would keep an egg intact while it was dropped 30 feet. Added to that, the vehicle must roll. The carrier with the egg intact that rolled the farthest won the challenge.

The vehicles came in all shapes and sizes — soccer balls and footballs, a peanut butter jar, and carriers with parachutes. The cushioning was made of every material imaginable.

Middle-school science teacher Paul Bryant was atop a cherry picker, dropping the eggs the required 30 feet. He did a controlled drop with an unprotected egg, and it went splat on the ground.

He had spectators count down “3, 2, 1,” and he dropped the egg vehicles one by one. Most rolled a short distance. About half of the eggs were scrambled after the fall, a better record than last year, when few eggs remained intact.

Seventh-graders Megan Stark and Chanin Perkins decided that peanut butter would be the perfect cushioning agent for an egg, so they dug through the peanut butter, placed the egg in the jar and replaced the substance. Unfortunately, their egg broke. They tested their theory by throwing the jar up as high as they could.

“It worked every other time we tried it,” Megan said, “but not today.”

Eighth-graders Emma Maisel and Sophie Saxton tried encasing their egg in several layers: Jell-O, fabric, and then several bags of cereal wrapped in severallayers of duct tape. Their egg survived without a scratch.

“Ours is a scrambled egg,” eighth-grader Nino Delany said somewhat sadly of their egg, which was in a basketball with foam and pillow stuffing. He and his partner Andrew Montesi tried the option simply because they thought it would work. Their carrier rolled at least 30 feet — as far as the measuring tape would measure.

“We designed it more to roll than to survive,” Nino said.

Seventh-graders Sarah Hager and Grace Collie created an egg carrier out of a plastic cup with fabric inside for cushioning. Then they used balloons to help the carrier make a softer landing, which it did — their egg did not crack.

Of their inspiration, Sarah said: “I was thinking about the movie ‘Up’ when the house floats with balloons.”

Contact Deb Hurley Brobst at deb@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1041. Check www.CanyonCourier.com for updates.