Science is not for every child, and neither are science fair projects. But for every child who participated in the annual Brazoria County Science Fair, there were many ways to get creative and to have fun while learning.
“They’re able to pick their topic,” said Sandra Consilio, chairman of the event. “It keeps them engaged in science and allows them that time to explore things that they may not get to explore in the classroom, because it’s an extension of what’s happening in the classroom.”
Seventeen schools across Brazoria County were represented across 367 submitted projects, from pre-kindergarteners through eighth-graders, Consilios said. More than 75 submissions came from fifth-graders alone, she said.
Homeschool groups were also eligible to participate, and a group of Life Skills students from Clute Intermediate brought their science fair boards to display. While they didn’t participate in the judging, there are plans to include Life Skills students as a grade level for next year, Consilio said.
Brazosport ISD second-grader Wyatt Hall was one of the science fair’s lower elementary participants with his observational project, “Brackish at the Beach,” designed to discover whether ocean water is less salty after heavy rain.
“Here’s why it matters,” he said. “Some sharks like — let’s say the bull shark over here — would they like brackish or freshwater?”
Brackish water is a mix of fresh and saltwater, and bull sharks can live in both brackish and freshwater, he said.
“I found out that sometimes beach water is brackish even if it hasn’t rained,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt learned a lot from participating in the science fair, and it was good practice, said his mother, Danielle Hall. He questions things more, she said.
“He’s already talking about wanting to see the high school projects, seeing how advanced those are and doing more,” Danielle Hall said. “He already wants to do more.”
Elementary school students up to third grade could submit observational projects or build models to answer questions about, Consilio said. However, fourth- through eighth-grade students were required to go more in-depth by conducting experiments with variables and following the scientific method.
“It’s a matter of what’s student-appropriate and what’s grade-level appropriate, and we’re meeting them where they’re at,” Consilio said.
Students in the same grade level could submit projects in teams of three if they chose to, Consilio said.
Seventh- and eighth-graders could work together and were required to conduct an interview in which they presented their projects to judges and answered questions — offering an opportunity to practice public speaking as well as science.
“I think one of the benefits of our county science fair is that we’re reaching all students,” Consilio said. “It’s not just engineering projects; it’s not robotics. It’s at the level of interest that each of the students have.”
Projects did not have to be related to something strictly scientific — one third-grade project explored how reading affects schoolwork, and the student left a bucket of bookmarks for people to take as they came by, Consilio said.
“She said ‘Take a bookmark and read,’ and that was her science fair project,” Consilio said.
Such diversity illustrates how science touches everything we’re doing, she said.
With good participation this year, even from preschoolers, “We’re reaching even our youngest students,” Consilio said.
It’s a big difference from recent past science fairs.
“Five years ago there were less than 70 projects,” Consilio said. “We’ve grown each year since then.”
Consilio is largely responsible for that growth, said Stacy Smith, executive director of special events for the Brazoria County Fair Association.
Consilio was a teacher when she came in as chairman, and she used her school connections to help raise awareness of the science fair, Smith said.
“She was able to use her resources as a teacher to come in and grow this event to what it is today,” Smith said.