TUBA CITY, Ariz. — Each year the Navajo Nation Science Fair showcases the youngest and brightest students from Navajo and Hopi area reservation schools in a stiff competition for several major science categories.
Students travel to Red Rock Park in Gallup, New Mexico from all over the Arizona and New Mexico area to compete for science recognition and project excellence in the areas of: animal science, behavioral science, biology, chemistry, engineering, computer science, environmental and physical science.
Projects included issues that relate to water, alternative energy, air pollution and home community health issues.
It is a three-day competitive event and students are engaged in critical thinking, long-range decision making and problem solving. They also must provide a final conclusion to their submitted projects.
This year’s Tuba City Junior High School students came home with seven first place winners for each category with the support and guidance of science teacher, James Hanlon.
Hanlon credits his TCJHS Principal Dr. Melissa Bilagody for administrative support and also fellow eighth grade science teacher, Vivian Abcede, for helping the student scientists representing the junior high school win such a big science sweep for Tuba City Unified School District.
Hanlon said during the past fall, he wanted his students to fully understand the seven steps of scientific method of problem solving: formulate a question, research the question, form a hypothesis, conduct an experiment to test the hypothesis, analyze the data, draw a conclusion and communicate the results.
“In this case, put your project on an exhibit board for competition,” Hanlon said. “My TC Junior High students were eager to put their science interests to the test.”
But as the student went along during the fall semester to get ready for the annual Navajo Nation Science Fair, some students found their projects might be too complicated for the fair and there was not enough time to properly prepare, or they could not get all the materials needed to have a successful project.
“So this type of preparation problem was also a learning experience for them, too,” Hanlon said. “The students were really excited to see if their test run was successful and it if was….that served to inspire them even more. It was really wonderful to see their inspired results and their enthusiasm.”
The first place winners from Tuba City Junior High competition are (two of the students placed in the annual Navajo Nation Science Fair as well):
Animal science: Roshelle Hawee, seventh grade, “Predators and Prey: How do Cats Respond to Bird Sound Recordings?”
Behavorial science: Kaylin White, eighth grade, “Shaping Your Thoughts.”
Biology: Martin John, seventh grade, “How Popular Beverages Affect your Bones.”
Chemistry: Jeremain Dugi, eighth grade, “Salt Crystals in Different Atmospheres.”
Engineering and computer science: Sean Kaya, eighth grade, “Comparing Paper Airplane to Modern Jet.”
Environmental science: Hiram Bowen, eighth grade, “Water Filters.”
Physical science: Geronie Pesodas, eighth grade, “Nothing but Net.”
The trip from Tuba City to Gallup, New Mexico, where the science competition was held, was a long one for the students.
They left Tuba City at 4:30 a.m. and they made a fast pit stop in Ganado at the Burnside grocery gas station-Burger King. By 7 a.m. some of the students were clamoring for breakfast and some snacks.
Though the TCUSD District paid for their meals, many of the students had earned their own personal spending money for the trip and were inclined to pay for their own snacks.
Once they got to Gallup, Hanlon was asked to be one of the sitting judges for the contest, which meant the students had to set up by themselves and be ready for the judges’ questions.
Hanlon said all of the competing students learned a lot and they had to present their science boards to three different judges.
“Judges talked with students about their submissions for about 30 minutes and they were also not allowed to leave their storyboards alone,” Hanlon said. “So they had to be fully present for this contest. The TCJHS students were so well behaved and it was really thrilling to ride home to Tuba City on the bus together, with all the students talking about what they would like to submit next year and what they would like to try.”
Hanlon said that if he could change one thing about the competition, it would be to allow more time for all of the students to visit and get a chance to know the other schools’ student competitors.
“There just wasn’t enough time for this, but I think our students would greatly benefit from a good science and school exchange, to find out what other schools and students are interested in,” Hanlon said. “But I was extremely proud to be the teacher-sponsor for this trip.”