On Thursday, February 6, the Big Walnut Local School District holds an event that’s becoming rare in Central Ohio, if not the entire state. That event involves students from fifth grade through high school, encouraging them to think logically and creatively using the scientific method of inquiry, and supports the district’s curriculum goals across all grade levels.
What event is it? It’s the Big Walnut Science Fair.
Big Walnut High School science teacher Matt Wallschlaeger said Big Walnut is one of few school districts in the state that has had a continuous science fair for the past 50-plus years.
“The science fair plays an important role in education because students are encouraged to be creative, original, and explore science beyond the typical classroom situation,” Wallschlaeger said. “As a teacher, it’s exciting for me to see students at different ages excel in open-ended science investigation; and it’s also enjoyable is seeing how the Big Walnut community supports one of the last local science fairs in Central Ohio.”
Wallschlaeger said this year’s science fair is hosting approximately 130 students showing 100 to 120 projects, mainly from the school district’s middle school and intermediate school buildings in project areas like behavioral science, biochemistry, botany, chemistry, earth science, engineering, physical science, environmental science, math, medicine, microbiology, zoology and computer science.
Seven high school science fair projects are in the works, Wallschlaeger said. Some examples of high school projects include researching solar cells, data base programming of chemicals at the high school, microbiological studies of the bird houses around the high school, oil spills and preventing House Sparrows from invading bird houses at the high school.
All students who receive a Superior rating during the Big Walnut Science Fair qualify to advance to Central District Science Day held at Columbus State Community College on March 15; and students who receive a Superior at Central District Science Day will be invited to advance to State Science Day held on May 10 at The Ohio State University.
Wallschlaeger said although involvement in science fairs has decreased dramatically in recent years, students who do participate find that the science fair experience provides opportunities that can improve their educational and occupational futures.
“The important role these science fairs play for students not only includes experiencing hands-on science, but also provides an opportunity for them to receive awards, certificates, plaques, cash, and even college scholarships,” Wallschlaeger said.
Big Walnut Science Fair Coordinator Linda Martin especially noted the community participation that has gone into the school district’s science fair for the past 25 years that she has been involved in the event.
“Boy Scout Troop 701 has volunteered as runners, seeing that scored project cards get back to the stat room ASAP for the past several years,” Martin said. “Assistant Scout Master Joe Jerome has overseen the runners most years. Also for the past five or six years, Big Walnut parent Rita Pavuk and Antonio’s Pizza have catered the judges’ Italian dinner, which is held prior to the start of judging.”
Martin said former Big Walnut parent Susie Kossmann has served as hostess for the dinner the past several years, as have former Big Walnut parent Lynn Haun prior to that.
“So many of our science-educated professionals that serve as judges are from right here in our own community,” Martin said. “We also have a dedicated core of judges from around Central Ohio who come back year after year to judge our science fair — one of the last remaining local science fairs in the entire area.
“Every year several new judges are former Big Walnut graduates who went on to work in some field of science,” Martin added. “Many of them participated in our science fair when they were students.”
Wallschlaeger agreed with Martin about the importance of local involvement in the Big Walnut Science Fair.
“Our school district science fair would not be successful without the volunteers who help the evening go smoothly, including the 40 to 50 judges who donate their personal time to evaluate the projects,” Wallschlaeger said. “In addition to the Big Walnut School District science staff, science fair judges often become part of an important career network for serious science students.”
The Big Walnut Science Fair will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, February 6, at Big Walnut High School. Students will be able to set up their projects from 5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. Parents and the general public are welcome to attend the science fair, but come early. Public viewing is from 5:30 to 6:45; the doors close during judging.
Martin said anyone with a science background who is new to the Big Walnut community and who would like to try their hand at judging student projects at the Big Walnut Science fair should contact her, Linda Martin, at < firstname.lastname@example.org >.
For additional information about Central District Science Day go to < cscc.edu/docs/science/ >; for additional information about State Science Day go to < ohiosci.org/state-science-day-2014/ >.