A fifth-grader from Freedom Elementary School has taken home the “Best Overall” trophy from this year’s District STEM Showcase.
Emrie VanDolah, with her project called “Earth to Earrings,” won the trophy with her well-researched project on using local soil samples to create earrings and jewelry made out of clay. (See photos below!)
The STEM Showcase, short for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, compiles projects from each of Sapulpa’s elementary schools under those categories under one room, where the students will present their projects to third-party judges, who will then award first through third prizes for each of those categories, plus one overall best winner.
This year, each winner also received a scholarship, courtesy of the Bartlett Foundation, to “Camp Invention,” a four-day summer program held at Holmes Park which focuses on utilizing these very skills in a creative environment, encourages students to problem-solve in ways that are fun but can also be very useful as they mature into curious, science-minded adults.
Megan Cannon is the District’s STEM Education Director and says it’s the fifth year that the district has done a STEM Showcase like this in place of a traditional science fair.
“We had 58 projects make it to the district showcase, with 13 winners,” she told Sapulpa Herald in an email this week.
Cannon also said the district saw more entries this year in the technology and math categories. “I think as students get more exposed to STEM education, they start seeing the possibility for projects in those categories,” she said.
Thirteen winners in a competition across four categories might sound like a lot, but Cannon says there’s a lot of consideration taken into deciding who wins, including the descriptive topic, the variety of research and resources the student uses, and the model itself, which can be digital or physical, depending on what’s appropriate. Students are also encouraged to share what they’ve learned and how they could improve their project if they were to do it again.
“They don’t have to have a trifold board, some students choose to present their information in a digital format,” Cannon said.
Even the oral presentation was judged, according to Cannon. “That rubric is aligned to the speaking and listening standards found in the Oklahoma Academic Standards for English Language Arts and includes how they speak and communicate the information about their project.”
Despite being such a large group of students who participate at the individual elementary level before progressing to the District Showcase, Cannon says they “almost never see two projects that are the same.”
“Students are choosing projects that are personal to them,” she said. “We had a student that drag races and he turned it into a science project! Another student shows goats, so she did a project comparing goat meat to other types of meat to see which is ‘best’ for you!”
It’s goat meat, by the way. Science proves it.
Other projects included making toys for their own pets at home, and of course, the winning project by Emrie VanDolah’s project dealt with making jewelry from the clay in her own backyard, her nanny’s house, and compared it to a polymer clay she purchased at the store. Through her own documented process of silting, separating, and testing, she began to nail down which soils were the best texture, which held their shape better, and at what temperature they needed to be baked. The result was a beautifully crafted set of colorful soils that she was then able to turn into an entrepreneurial endeavor by shaping them into earrings and other jewelry.
Cannon says there’s a committee that begins meeting in early September to support the students and their families all school year as they choose and work out their project. Cannon was sure to give a shout-out to everyone involved as they handed out the trophies this year. “This is a huge team effort,” she said. “I couldn’t do it without them.”
The winners, by category, are:
- 3rd Place: Lydia Aubuchon (Holmes Park)
- 2nd Place: Reagan LaFevers (Freedom)
- 1st Place: Evan Bryning (Freedom)
- 3rd Place: Michael Payne (Holmes Park)
- 2nd Place: Ryan Probst (Jefferson Heights)
- 1st Place: Chi Porter (Freedom)
- 3rd Place: Lillie Frank (Liberty)
- 2nd Place: Autumn Howard (Freedom)
- 1st Place: Austin Benton (Freedom)
- 3rd Place: Piper Admire (Holmes Park)
- 2nd Place: Parker Bilby (Freedom)
- 1st Place: Allie Enlow (Freedom)
- Emrie VanDolah (Freedom)