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Aleknagik hosts Southwest District science fair

Hannah Colton/KDLG

Two eighth graders from Manokotak took first and second place overall for their projects: "Space: the Quiet Frontier" and "Size Matters"

Thirty-some young researchers showed off their smarts in Aleknagik Friday for the Southwest Region School District science fair.

Audio transcript:

Students in grades 3 through 8 set up colorful tri-fold poster boards on tables in the gym. They showed off photos and charts to the judges, who roamed, asking the students questions about their experiments and results.

Melody Rainwater, a science teacher in New Stuyahok, helped organize the event. She says this is the first year the SW Region schools have come together for a district fair.

“The majority are from Aleknagik, but we have several kids from Manokotak, Koliganek, and New Stuyahok as well… Sometimes we get so caught up in the testing that we forget that there’s fun parts, and so our goal was to make sure there’s that fun, interactive, inquisitive science in the classrooms.”

For the local fairs, each student got to pick a topic – a hypothesis - and design an experiment to test it. The district fair represents the best of those projects.

Sixth graders Brody and Natasha from Koliganek wondered about the effects of caffeine. Does it make your heart rate go up? To find out, they had their friends and family drink Mountain Dew:

“The way it works is, we get some people, we count their heartbeat…Then we let them drink the soda. Ten minutes later we check their heartbeat again, and check their heartbeat again. and our results were that it does go up.”

After the judging was over, Rainwater announced the top projects in each category – earth sciences, life sciences, physical sciences, and the best overall.

[Rainwater] “And our first place winner, also receiving an iPod nano, is Keesha Paul.”
[Paul] “I’m Keesha Paul, I’m in eighth grade, I’m from Manokotak Alaska.”

Paul’s project was titled “Space: the Quiet Frontier.” She asked whether you can hear sound in a vacuum like outer space. She created a homemade vacuum using directions she found online.  

“The first time I tested if there could be sound and I could hear it. but the second time I boiled water in the flask and it turned back into water vapor after I used ice. And then I tried to play the music on full volume but I couldn’t hear anything! Even my science teacher was surprised.”

Paul says she’s been curious about space since she learned about astronauts like Sally Ride and Mae Jemison a few years ago.

“I want to try go to space and actually test it… like physically.”

In the meantime, Paul says, she hopes to do more science fairs when she gets to high school. 

Rainwater and the other teachers hope to keep growing the program so that they can eventually take students to the annual state science fair in Anchorage.

Contact Hannah Colton at hannah@kdlg.org.