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Dual fairs get youth pumped about science

Science was in the air - and water, earth and space - Tuesday as both Whitwell and Burlington elementaries hosted their annual science fairs.

Both of the schools' gyms were lined with eager third, fourth, and fifth grade students proudly displaying their research, plastered to poster-board, or lining cafeteria tables.

Many of the students bypassed the typical volcano fare for projects dealing with real issues such as coal mining and smoking. Some even decided to have a little fun, like Burlington student Macy Allen, whose project endeavored to find the best chewing gum for bubble blowing.

Whitwell Third-grader Loretta Clay worked to find out whether salt or baking soda would dissolve faster in a variety of solvents.

"It made me like science more. I've always liked science, but I didn't know what it was like, until I found out today," Loretta said.

A few towns over, Burlington fifth-grader Brandon Noble was having a similar awakening of scientific interest.

"I went from not really liking science, to liking science," Noble said. "Because I think the human body is really great, and I wanted to learn more about it."

Rilee Lewis, also in third grade at Whitwell, had never been a fan of science, until she saw how much you could discover using the scientific method.

She wanted her project, on the detriments of smoking, to make a difference as much as it informed.

"Since smoking is the worst thing you could ever do to damage your lungs, I wanted to make people stop smoking by showing this project to them," Rilee said.

Melanie Conley is a science instructor at Ironton Junior High, a judge who seemed genuinely impress with the Whitwell projects she had seen.

"I think they're wonderful," Conley said. "The children have been really excited about them, and if they learn a little something about science and become curious about it then it's a very worthwhile thing."

Whitwell Elementary broke with the tradition of selecting winners, and instead simply ranked the students' projects as satisfactory, good, excellent or superior.

Sharon Cramblit, the Whitwell science instructor responsible for the event, said that she might select one of the superior projects as best in show, and award the student responsible with a plaque at the end of the year.

Burlington, however, did have a clear winner, Amanda Forth, whose project "Black Marker Magic" used coffee filters to show the rainbow of colors that mix to give a black marker its hue.

Though now the scores have all been tabulated, and the ribbons have all been passed out, many of the students said their newly-found love of science will last long after the poster-boards have been taken down.