A laboratory in the living room | SummitDaily.com

A laboratory in the living room

FRISCO – When the parent is also the teacher, getting students to complete long-term projects like science fair presentations can be twice the challenge.

But any headaches seemed to have paid off Friday night, as 28 homeschooled students gathered at Frisco’s County Commons for a science fair.

Parent Dawn Willis, with the help of other mothers, organized the annual show under the auspices of the Christian Home Educators of the Rockies. The organization, which counts 32 families as members, helps enrich students’ homeschooling through parent-organized activities, trips and projects. In addition to the science fair, parents organize student newspapers, trips to museums or ballet performances and Valentine’s Day exchanges.

Willis said projects such as science fair experiments can challenge students’ discipline and organizational skills, but the experience is an important one.

“We try to encourage independence in the kids,” said Willis, a former public school teacher. The fair is not so much a competition, she said, as a chance for students to show off what they’ve learned.

Students conducted traditional hypothesis-experiment projects, such as exploring what conditions grow mold the quickest or what variables contribute to the longest paper airplane flight. Other students performed extensive research on science topics, including the life-cycle of stars and how internal combustion engines work.

Eight-year-old Silverthorne resident Jake Colvard spent about two months reading up on Archimedes, a second-century B.C. Greek mathematician, inventor and war theoretician. Colvard’s presentation focused on Archimedes’ revelations on buoyancy, water displacement and invention of the water screw, an innovation that used the turning action of the screw to elevate water.

“They were carrying water off (in a bucket) and he must have thought there was an easier way,” Colvard said.

The projects allowed students to delve deeper into subjects aligned with their interests. David George, a 15-year-old from the Kremmling area, researched West Nile Virus. George’s family lives on and operates the Latigo Ranch, a dude-ranch offering horseback trips. George and his family adopted a horse last year and many guests ask questions about the virus, which infects horses.

“In biology, I’m learning all about viruses and vaccinations,” said George, who produced question-and-answer facts about the disease, as well as a series of maps to show its historic spread across the country.

His 12-year-old brother, Spencer, followed up on an article he wrote for the homeschool newspaper on Rube Goldberg, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist known for his wacky inventions. Spencer George’s project combined simple machines – levers, pulleys, wedges, wheels and axles – to construct a cause-and-effect contraption that began with a hammer falling and ended with a machete slicing apples.

Bringing students together for the science fair gives the students a chance to learn from each other, as well. Kayla Willis, 11, shared her experiment on which materials insulate ice cubes the best with her friends and waited for a break to view other students’ projects.

“I like the science fair – I always learn a lot about things I didn’t know,” Willis said. “And I’ve already got my idea for next year. I’m going to do something on water conservation.”

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or rwilliams@summitdaily.com.

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