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Santa Maria Sun / School Scene

The following article was posted on March 6th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 52 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 52

Pioneer Valley High students prep for science fair

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

Blacktail deer and mountain lions caught on camera tell a story about Colson Canyon that Pioneer Valley student Katlynn Randolph can’t wait to share with Santa Barbara County science fair judges on March 8.


SPEAKING PRACTICE:
Katlynn Randolph presented her project for the Santa Barbara County Science Fair to Pioneer Valley High School science teacher Tammie Castillo-Sciffer during a practice round for Pioneer students on March 1.
PHOTO BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

Randolph had the chance to practice telling her story on March 1, as she was arranging the pieces of her science puzzle on the poster board she’ll present at the fair. She was approached by Tammie Castillo-Sciffer, a Pioneer Valley science teacher, and asked to speak about her project.

Castillo-Sciffer was one of several teachers equipped with clipboards and questions that afternoon, who quizzed the eight Pioneer Valley High students who have projects they’re presenting at the fair. Each student worked on their project over a six-week-long Summer Science Institute, a course taught by Pioneer’s biology and environmental science teacher, Ricardo Magni.

“I think it’s amazing,” Castillo-Sciffer said of Randolph’s project. “It’s very original, and it’s nice to see students find a practical application for science.”

Randolph said her project shows the diversity of wildlife in Colson Canyon. She wants to share the data she collected with the area’s recreational users, that way hikers will know what kind of wildlife they could encounter and how they can make less of an impact in the area.

Her project aligns with her passion: the environment. Magni said each of the eight students who participated in the science institute had to pick a project to present at the science fair. It had to be something they were inspired by—and something they could focus on for six weeks.

“Every single kid is into their project,” Magni said. “They found something that captured them.”

Two students picked physical science projects, and six picked life science. Magni said his job was to direct the students through the course of their projects and help them troubleshoot when they came up against a wall.

It’s important for students to see a project through to the end, but Magni said it’s equally important for them to learn how to present their knowledge to a stranger. Presenting is where the science fair comes in.

“I want them to develop the confidence to present their own projects,” Magni said. “It’s like a job interview; all about speaking skills, learning to articulate the knowledge that they have.”

Summer 2012 was the third time Magni taught the class for Pioneer Valley High School students. Summer 2013’s class will be open to students from Righetti and Santa Maria High, and Magni will teach it at Alan Hancock College rather than Pioneer Valley’s campus.

An application process will determine who gets to take the class, and Magni will hold presentations about the class at the newly eligible high schools later this school year.

As for the science fair, Randolph and her classmates will be eight of the 17 total high school entries for Santa Barbara County. They’ll showcase their projects in the Corwin Pavilion at UCSB. The fair is open for public viewing starting at 4 p.m., and the awards ceremony starts at 7 p.m.

Students are competing for $3,000 in prizes against 130 entrants from elementary school through college and a chance to head to the state science fair held April 15 to 16.

School Scene is written by Staff Writer Camillia Lanham. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, e-mail, or mail.