A group of Philadelphia public school students were honored May 19 by non-profit iPraxis for winning the program’s intra-school science fairs. Students from elementary schools including Martha Washington, Lea, Locke and Blankenburg were in attendance at the event held at Drexel University’s Bossone Research Center.
Davis’ project was centered on solar energy, demonstrated by using the heat from light bulbs to bake a pizza. “I learned more about how the sun creates energy and I learned how to work together [with others],” said Davis. “I like to physically do science, it’s more fun.”
Washington seventh-grader Nashay Day said he also enjoyed the work and learned valuable lessons from completing the projects.
“We did an experiment on which type of water helped oat grass grow — distilled water, tap water or salt water,” explained Day, adding that he learned more than a science lesson from the project. I learned that you cannot finish a science experiment by yourself. You have to cooperate with the team.”
Students like Day, at Washington, and other district schools were able to complete these projects with the help of iPraxis, who provided professional volunteers to go into classrooms to guide and mentor students along the way. Students worked on the projects with their mentors beginning in January during class time, and continued once a week for eight weeks.
“This is the exposure they need. They need to be given a big project spread over a lot of months in a team setting, working with real scientists to figure out how science works,” said Washington science teacher Kate Crandall.
“I have 34 students in my seventh-grade class, 33 in my eighth-grade class, and I am one teacher. It’s always been my goal to do projects, but it’s a lot to engineer. Having the mentors here decreases the student-teacher ratio to 4 to 1 and students get all the time, energy and attention they need to grow in the subject.”
Volunteers who worked with students include science professionals from Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW), University of Pennsylvania, local hospitals and the Philadelphia Water Department.
“That old saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’ you could say it takes a village to raise a scientist,” said Crandall. “[Students] need to be surrounded by people succeeding in the field, love the field and can explain why this is important.”