Creativity thrives at Centennial's STEAM Fair

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Creativity thrives at Centennial's STEAM Fair
Elementary students peer into microscopes at a tableCentennial Elementary School recently transformed its building for a student science exposition, with a multitude of exhibits and projects on display. From sound wavelengths, to planets and rockets, to the intricacies of snowflakes and fossils, students were encouraged to visit Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics (STEAM) exhibits spread throughout the school. Teachers and Centennial Elementary School booster club members helped reach out to local scientists in the Olympia community to invite them to the event and provide input into the exhibits.

Fourth-grade teacher Jennifer Knight coordinated this amazing event, remarking; “We invited every student at Centennial to participate in the fair by displaying a STEAM project from class. Seven of those students submitted a Science Fair experiment that they also presented. Community scientists were invited to give written and oral feedback to junior scientists and community members at the fair.”

Student projects varied greatly from growing borax crystals, putting engineering concepts to work by building a Billy Goats Gruff Bridge to learning more about the color wheel. This is the first year that Centennial has held a STEAM Fair. “We wanted something interactive and engaging for all our students,” said Principal Shannon Ritter. Although Centennial has held science fairs in past years, the format for the event this year got the entire school involved.

Despite the wet weather, there was plenty of interest in the outdoor activity available to attendees. Students launched bottle rockets, and immediately sprinted off down the field with a measuring tape to see how far it had gone. Meanwhile, other students got to explore a variety of displays, from ocean creatures (complete with mussels in a tank), to a table where they could build their own rocket, to a demonstration where they could learn more about snowflakes.

In the gym, groups of students were transfixed, entirely focused on the presentation taking place in front of them. “The smallest piece of matter is called an atom. So just like the letter A or B have their own sounds and properties, each of these elements has their own properties and you can use them to put together any type of material object,” said Andrea Kunder, a scientist at St. Martin’s University. Later, Kunder showed students what liquid nitrogen does when added to marshmallows or pieces of cereal. She encouraged students to try the frozen pieces and chew with their mouths open. She demonstrated, and steam came out of her mouth like a dragon's breath as students laughed excitedly.

Knight had this to say after a boisterous evening of science-based learning; “The best part of the event was the enthusiasm and energy shared all day long by all ages. From kindergarten to fifth grade, to staff and volunteers, everyone had a smile on their face all day long, engaging in hands-on science that transformed the typical school day!”