Riverside students delve into projects for STEM Fair

March 21, 2018 GMT

GREENWICH — At Riverside School, the learning didn’t stop Tuesday after the end-of-the-day bell. At the annual STEM Fair that evening, students from all grades showed off their best independent study projects in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

More than 210 students took part in the STEM Fair, and many more parents and students toured the school’s gymnasium to check out all the projects on display.

The student projects included a water-powered claw, a study of whether video games truly rot your brain, an exploration of whether sense of smell affects taste, the science of ballet, the chemistry of cookies and even the science of “deflategate,” as students attempted to prove the infamous cheating charge against quarterback Tom Brady didn’t change the results of any of football games.

For Riverside School Principal Christopher Weiss, the event is a highlight of the year because it energizes the students with hands-on learning projects that they are able to take on outside of the classroom.

“STEM skills are really essential,” Weiss said. “We used to run this as a science fair, and of course there are still a lot of scientific projects that are here. But we really wanted to incorporate opportunities for technology, engineering, math and any kind of exploration they want to do. We want to see if businesses can be created or if inventions can be made and demonstrated. We love the idea of giving our students a wider range of choices.”

All of the students in kindergarten through fifth grade who participated earned certificates of achievement and medals. Additionally, each project received feedback from faculty about ways to develop the topics even further in the future.

The fair, sponsored by the Riverside School PTA, has been going on for 14 years. Weiss said he loves to see the students get so excited for it.

“It means a lot to me because this is something that’s personal to them,” he said. “The district is really trying to focus on personalized learning, and it’s a great opportunity for them to demonstrate something that is to them important using science and technology facts and the scientific process. They’re creating things with innovation and really making a difference for them personally.”

The kids were eager to show off their projects. Fifth-graders Luis Gralic and Agustin Grether displayed their project exploring the myths and the realities of the “Bermuda Triangle,” where planes and ships have disappeared. They included a stop-motion video they made themselves with Legos about what it might be like to go into the triangle.

“It was a lot of fun making the video, and I learned there are some mysteries that can’t be solved easily,” Luis said. “There are so many theories about this, and none of them have ever been proven.”

Both kids said they loved challenging themselves with the project, and Luis said he learned a lot about the Bermuda Triangle that he hadn’t known before.

Fourth-graders Mora Roca and Louisa Michelagnoli experimented with static electricity for their project. They tested whether different colors of balloons had different reactions on different colors of hair. They even experimented on themselves and their dogs as part of their project.

“We always wanted to know if static electricity can be dangerous, and it actually can be when it’s near flammable gas and a high concentration of oxygen,” Louisa said. “It was a lot of fun hanging out and working on this.”

“It was a lot of fun to put this stuff on and experiment on ourselves,” Mora added.

The crowd that packed the school included more than just parents and students. Greenwich High School teacher Andrew Bramante, whose honors science students often find themselves taking home major prizes for their achievements, attended — and no doubt met a few of his future students.

“It’s really amazing to see all the different ideas and what they’re working on,” Bramante said. “There’s such a diversity here. It’s inspiring to see them thinking about this at such an early age and how they weave it into their passions.”