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From baking cakes to blasting off rockets, LKSD students share their science fair experiments

Growing crystals and bacteria, baking cakes and shooting off rockets – students presented all sorts of science experiments at the annual Lower Kuskokwim School District (LKSD) Science Fair at the Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center in Bethel on Feb. 23.

KYUK’s Gabby Salgado and MaryCait Dolan were there to hear from science-minded students and teachers.

ROUGH TRANSCRIPT BELOW (lightly edited for clarity and flow):

Gretchen: My name is Gretchen and I go to [Gladys Jung Elementary]. I was testing a dog and a human's mouth to see which one had less bacteria. So I swabbed my dog and my dad's mouth. And I put them on agar plates, and then I incubated them under a light and checked on them every day.

KYUK: What was your favorite part about this experiment?

Gretchen: My favorite part was the results. It was kind of gross, but kind of cool to learn that a dog's mouth is dirtier.

Anakin: My name is Anakin, I’m from Tutuntuliak. My project is all about germs for germophobic people to see which best kills germs. We were thinking that hand sanitizer would work the best, but it was actually soap and water.

KYUK: What was your favorite part about this experiment?

Anakin: Rubbing your hands all around the floor and testing to see which one works best.

Cedric: Cedric, and I go to Gladys Jung Elementary. 

Mason: My name is Mason and I go to Gladys Jung. 

Cedric: We made windmills, and were checking which one is the sturdiest. 

Mason: We used our mouths to blow the windmills to make sure how sturdy.

Cedric: We thought construction paper was going to be the strongest. But then it turned out it was printer paper that was the strongest one.

Nora: Hi, I'm Nora. I go to Ayaprun Elitnaurvik and I’m in fifth grade. 

Kendall: I'm Kendall, and I'm from Ayaprun Elitnaurvik, and I’m in fifth grade. 

Nora: We were trying to use monkfruit instead of real sugar to make healthier cupcakes.

KYUK: What kind of cake did you guys make?

Nora: Chocolate; we made it from scratch.

KYUK: And tell me how you came up with this idea. 

Kendall: So first, it was like something with puppies and stuff. But we couldn't do that because it had to be at school. And they didn't allow dogs. 

Nora: Originally we were going to do this dog one. And then, just like a no sugar cake and then a sugar cake and test it. But my mom told me that there's monkfruit, and then we had a lot of people test it. A lot, most people liked cake with sugar. So our hypothesis was correct. But some people thought they tasted the same. A lot of people thought the monkfruit one was more dry. And sugar one was a lot more moist.

Roman Stinespring: I'm Roman, and I teach in a school in Newtok, Alaska. It wasn't until we were on the plane, about to take off in Newtok, that I found out that two of our people had never been to Bethel, had never been outside the village before. At least one of them had never been on a plane before. Four of them had never been to Bethel without their parents before. So this is, for a lot of them, this is their very first school trip away from the village. So it's been a good experience for them. Our only fourth-grade group did an experiment with the patterns of colors and packages of M&Ms. So they opened 10 packages of M&Ms of both original and peanut butter. So that way, they could count the number of colors, find the average, and then find out which colors occurred more often than others and see how that compared to other flavors of M&Ms, like in the peanut butter. So that involved eating about 20 packages of M&Ms in my classroom in one day, which they had a blast with. And our other group did a balloon-powered car. I feel like they learned a lot from those experiments. After this year, Newtok’s school will be shut down and all schooling for people in both villages will happen in Mertarvik. This is their first science fair, my first science fair, all happening in the last year of Newtok schools. So yeah, it's a wild experience. 

KYUK: Can you tell us why science and science fairs are so important to kids in learning? Why it's important for education?

Stinespring: Honestly, I think it's just because it's one of those subjects that applies a lot more with the hands-on aspect of it. It's hard to, at least for me anyway, when I was in school, it was much harder to learn science when you were just taking notes. 

Seth: My name is Seth, and I am from the school Kuinerrarmiut Elitnaurviat, and my experiment is about how payload placement affects rocket stability. My payload was clay. First, I put the payload into the bottom when I shot it off. The rocket just was somersaulting and turning around and around. That was because when I put the clay in the bottom, the center of gravity dropped below the center of pressure. So when I launched off, the center of pressure pushed it to the side. 

KYUK: What was your favorite part of doing this project?

Seth: It was launching the rocket off. 

KYUK: How did you launch it off? 

Seth: I used a pump system. I put a bicycle pump into a hole in a cork, and then hot glued it, and I filled this with water. Well, like halfway, then I put the cork in as hard as I could, put it into a cardboard box, and then pumped. And then when the cork flew off, then this one would go up. The rocket would go up. 

KYUK: How high was the rocket at its highest?

Seth: Almost, I would guess, like, a couple yards. We did it in the gym and it didn't quite reach the ceiling. It's exciting to be in Bethel. The only other people from my school here are my teacher, Ms. Kendrick, and my dad. He'll be my teacher soon.

Gabby Hiestand Salgado is the Multimedia Director for KYUK
MaryCait Dolan (she/her) is a Multimedia Producer at KYUK.
Sage Smiley is KYUK's news director.