On Friday, the fifth-grade students of Haw Creek Elementary became teachers and spent several hours instructing their peers, family and friends on nearly 50 different science topics at the first ever Haw Creek Elementary Fourth of May Science Night.
"I didn't know what to expect, it was led by the fifth graders," said Haw Creek Innovation Specialist Julie Kelley with a laugh.
According to Kelley, at the beginning of the year, each fifth-grade class at Haw Creek Elementary was allowed to pick a “passion project” tied to a scientific idea in order to teach it to the rest of the school.
"We had a couple of girls that love reptiles. Well, they did a slide show about reptiles and invited a dad who has an alligator and a snake, turtles and a lizard,” Kelley said. “So when the girls finished their presentation, guests could go to the little mini-petting zoo."
She said that the ideas students came up with varied wildly, from reptiles and making paper lanterns out of parchment paper and teaching about the idea of translucent vs. transparent and opaque; to making bottle rockets out of water bottles, vinegar and baking soda and teaching about basic physics and chemistry.
All in all, she said that there were about 50 different projects at the event, but one in particular "won her heart.”
"Savannah Reynolds, a fifth-grader, her passion was to find a cure for cancer," Kelley said. "Well, she made bracelets with ultraviolet beads that turn colors when you are in the sun ... which is a good indication that you need sunscreen.”
Kelley said that Reynolds sold her bracelets, raising $140 for the American Cancer Society.
One big part of the night that made the event important, Kelley said, is that it made students exercise a wide variety of skills, from science and research to language arts and public speaking.
“The assistant principal came to me and said what struck her about being most powerful that evening is that my most challenged students ... it was their night to shine, they were in charge," she said.
Kelley added that her students fully engaged with the idea of making personal and elaborate projects.
"It put a lot of responsibility on them," she said.
With the interest shown by students and the fun had by families, Kelley said they are set on turning the night into an annual event at the school.
"This was our first year, and we have room to grow now," she said. "I'd love it to be a tradition for fifth-graders to look forward to.”