ON THE SCENE: Keene students shine at annual Science Slam
March 17, 2017


Science is exciting at the Keene Central School. On Thursday night, March 9, kids from kindergarten to grade 12 showcased projects that displayed their scientific chops and when not doing so, raced about to check out what their schoolmates were doing.

Keene Central's Science Slam is engaging for all ages. It has the energy of Burning Man, a rock concert, farmers market and street festival tossed together.

What's neat is no two Slams are the same. No matter your age, there is something new to experience and learn. While birders have been flocking to Alstead Hill to see a Great Gray Owl, at the Science Slam one could pet an 8-foot Columbian red-tailed boa constrictor that had been found in a Glens Falls resident's backyard, far from the humid tropical forests they prefer. When found, it was a mere 4 feet, but still when it comes to exotic, that's hard to beat.

"He likes me because I'm warm," said Alex Hall of the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge about the snake draped around his body. "He's not the only surprising creature we have, our black bear Barnaby gave birth to two baby cubs. We since renamed her Barnabee."

"I'd like to have a smaller snake," said Gabriela.

Several other experiences were hard to beat. Ever wonder what sound might look like? Cedar, Harvey, Emrys and Hunter were able to demonstrate that (a) it's possible, and (b) how to do so has been around since 1680 thanks to Robert Hooke. Who knew? They did.

Then there was a "Who did it?" Kill the janitor, that is. There he was, lying bleeding on the third floor with clues a plenty. In groups of about a dozen, people were invited in to view the crime scene, bring out their inner Sherlock to sus out the clues, and then delve into the CSI lab to determine whose blood, hair samples, and fingerprints did the deed.

"What makes fingerprints so different is the minutia, their patterns within the loops and swirls" said Jada to our ad hoc CSI team. "Even identical twins don't have the same fingerprints because the amniotic fluid within the womb modifies the images on the child hands."

She then showed us how to lift a fingerprint off a water bottle. Not to be outdone, her colleague Lucas demonstrated how Super Glue fumes can be used to highlight finger prints on a plastic bag.

"I couldn't solve the case, but I was impressed with the kids would demonstrated how to do the analysis," said Judy Caner. "The students were really into it."

"I thought the crime scene was really well done," said Julie Craig. "The blood work, hair and fingerprinting was really interesting, I wish we had more time to find the suspect. We knew it was suspect two, but didn't learn who that was."

In the hall, eighth graders Ceilidh and Hali delved into what whitening toothpaste actually got your teeth whiter. The answer, in true Consumer Reports manner, is it depends on the stain one is trying to remove. Grape juice, by the way, was revealed to be a far nastier stain than coffee or Coca Cola.

Another option was to have Ariane determine how you learn, and do you really learn and express yourself in the manner that you think you do? In my case, she demonstrated that I learn and express myself visually. Nearby, Maeve explained the history of how colors once expressed our emotions, now because we are no longer hunter gathers it's a bit more muddled.

On the first floor, Bailey and Hannah were popping such Madison Avenue bubbles that Vitaminwater is somehow heathy; as if swigging down a quarter cup of sugar seems like a good idea. Gatorade turns out is even worse, and pouring a box of sugar in a cup and throwing that back is akin to drinking a can of Mountain Dew.

"That Cliff Bar has 22 grams of sugar," said Bailey, sinking its health benefits.

"I've talked to kindergarteners through sixth grade on how sugar affects their teeth and eats away at the bacteria that protects their teeth and makes them thin and weak," said Hanna. "Bad stuff. Instead of Gatorade or soft drinks, which put a lot of sugar in your body, people should be drinking lots of water throughout the day."

Next to them, second and third graders Elsa and Schuyler tackled mold.

"We learned everything about mold," said Schuyler. "We learned where it grows, why it grows, and what can prevent it from growing. We have games where you can ask a question about mold and pick one of the flaps to get an answer."

"We did a lot of research and wrote down a lot of things," said Elsa.

In the thick of it all was the town supervisor, having learned that one of his unofficial duties was as a judge, and not just the marrying kind. His duty was evaluating Science Slam presentations, many at a level far beyond his skill set when of a similar age.

"I've got five experiments to judge," said Supervisor Joe Pete Wilson. "My first one was very nicely done. I'm learning how creative our young students are. Eva, a second-grader, thought of this all by herself. She created a rainbow through removing the colors from Skittles in warm water."

"It was cool to have Mr. Wilson come by," said Eva.

"I'm very proud of Eva," said her mom Jesse Pepe. "She did a lot of research to figure out what would be the best project that represented her personality."

At 7 p.m., the action shifted from the hallways, cafeteria that was serving a wide array of fabulous offerings, to the gym for The Great Egg Drop, Edible Car Derby, CO2 Eliminator Drag Race, spinning balance beam, and Learn How to Fly a Drone, to name about half of the activities. It was a bit of a seven-ring circus.

"I'm going to go home and eat Lightning Arrow," said Zarela, after the edible car race.

As Arrow had been constructed from a cucumber and used a sliced squash for wheels, she demonstrated that while she didn't win, she didn't go home empty handed.

"I feel shaky but good," said Maya after winning the egg drop having the lightest case that kept an egg from breaking when dropped from the gym ceiling to the floor.

"We loved that the kids came up with such a diverse array of scientific projects," said Slam organizer Jen Kazmierczak. "Our main goal of this event is to get kids excited about science, and you can feel it!" Succeed they did.


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