HOHENFELS, Germany -- Students at Hohenfels Elementary School showed off their science skills at a project-based extravaganza highlighting Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) recently.
Dozens of stations across the playground and throughout the school featured various interactive displays from science experiments to finger painting, all staffed by students.
"The students have created almost all of the exhibits," said Jeannette Fry, fifth-grade teacher and organizer of the event. "Though every center does have an adult supervisor, the children are actually doing the work and solving any problems they may encounter."
In general, the fifth grade took the lead for the science side of the program, while the sixth grade handled art. Fourth-graders acted as assistants for both groups. A smattering of outside organizations provided the occasional display, such as Staff Sgt. Christopher Ray's exhibit on some of the technological tools available for CSI (Crime Scene Investigation).
Some booths conducted live science experiments such as "The Hand" which involved a plastic glove, baking soda and vinegar.
Fifth-grader Ethan Field demonstrated by dumping a bit of baking soda into a disposable plastic glove, and then stretching the glove to cover a small container of vinegar.
"The baking soda will fall into the vinegar, which will cause a reaction creating carbon dioxide," said Field. The resulting gas inflated the glove like a balloon.
Another experiment involved the "Mentos Rocket Car," where wheels were attached to two-liter bottles of Coke and Mentos mints were added for propulsion. The resulting Coke-spewing "rocket" was a crowd favorite.
The technology aspect of the afternoon was well represented by the "Mindstorms Robotics" display, where children demonstrated how to program various robotic creations to walk, move and even battle each other.
Another fascinating display featured the "Bugscope," an interactive online experience with a scanning electron microscope courtesy of the Beckman Institute's Imaging Technology Group at the University of Illinois. Students at Hohenfels explored the microscopic world of insects through the microscope's online images and asked questions of the scientists live via chat.
"Obviously we don't have an electron microscope at Hohenfels," said Sarah Utter, sixth-grade teacher, "but if the kids can see this, now, and start thinking about it, maybe they'll want to be involved in it later on."
Art projects included crafting creatures from homemade Play Doh, creating jewelry out of duct tape and using one's fingerprints to paint petals on a dandelion drawing.
"The dandelion is the symbol of the military child," said Gwen Gamble, second-grade teacher. "Military children bloom everywhere the winds carry them."
All the displays were hands on and visitors were encouraged to participate, whether playing music with glasses of water, defying gravity using Newton's first law or creating the fastest paper airplane. Through it all, the students explained the theories, procedures and results.
"I believe that the more opportunities you give children to be in charge of their lives, the more independent and better thinkers and problem solvers they become," said Fry.