Tuba City students win big at Navajo Nation Science Fair
Jaycelyn Tallsalt wins first place, overall winner in Junior Division
TUBA CITY, Ariz. — Several students from Tuba City Unified School District participated and won awards in the 2019 Navajo Nation Science Fair held Feb. 26-28 at Red Rock Park in Church Rock, New Mexico.
First place winners included eighth-grader Jaycelyn Tallsalt, who won first place and was the overall winner in the Junior Division with her entry “Wood + Coal = CO2 Concern” in the environmental science category; eighth-grader Mikyla Johnson with “MED-Sage” in the biology category and eighth-grader Maric Bilagody with “Shooting Accuracy vs. Fatigue” in the physical science category.
Other students that placed included Bradley Tallsalt, who won fourth place in the Peewee Division in the physical sciences category, and sixth-graders Miara Bilagody won second place in the biology category and Myles Beam won fifth place in the behavioral/social sciences category. Seventh-graders Maria Lucella Macaraig won fourth place for “Musical Concentration Boost” in the behavioral/social science category and Brenleigh DeMoss won fifth place with “Does Music Affect Dogs” in the animal science category. Lastly, eighth-grader Emmett Tso won third place for his entry “Voltage and Speed” in the engineering/computer science category.
The three-day competition attracted 64 schools from across the Navajo Nation, 858 science projects and 911 students, according to Allan Blacksheep with the Navajo Nation Department of Diné Education.
Blacksheep explained the Navajo Nation Science Fair is a collection of science projects that survived local school science fairs held weeks prior.
Various grade levels competed on separate days. On day one, 281 students in Grades K-4 competed in the Peewee Division; day two attracted more than 292 students in Grades 5-6 in the elementary division; and on day three, 285 students in Grades 7-12 competed. The categories included: animal science, behavioral and social sciences, biology, chemistry, engineering and computer sciences, environmental sciences and physical science.
Blacksheep explained the first place winners of the Navajo Nation Science Fair qualify to participate in the Arizona Science and Engineering Fair the statewide science fair, scheduled April 4-5 in Phoenix.
According to the Arizona Science Center, this competition provides thousands of dollars in prizes and scholarships. The grand award winners in the senior division from the state level fair will be selected to compete at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair May 16 in Phoenix.
Blacksheep also explained the tribe has been hosting the science fair for more than 20 years and it’s a way to promote education, particularly in the areas of math and science. He said they hope schools will in turn increase efforts to teach more science in their school curriculums.
Phillip McCabe, a teacher at the Tuba City Elementary School, explained the purpose of the Navajo Nation Science Fair is to improve local science fairs across the Navajo Nation, to improve student learning in the classroom, to implement Next Generation Science Standards and to become affiliated with science fairs in the state.
“The Navajo Nation Science Fair strives for students to apply more research-based project entries while applying the scientific method process and engineering design process,” he said. “The science fair also encourages the incorporation of the Navajo culture and environment into projects and research. The main goal of the science fair is to recognize and reward teachers working with students with research year-round.”
Blacksheep said the science fair gets better and better each year, and he said he has seen an increase in submitted science projects this year.
Participants in the Peewee Division included: kindergartners Payten Bennett and Maceon Bennett; first-grader Bryce DesRosiers; second-grader Peyton Hatathlie; and fourth-graders Maria Bilagody, Kailyn Blackhair, Riley Fowler, Andrea Manuelito, Kyra Stanley, Bradley Tallsalt and Jevon Turner.
Participants in the elementary division, Grades 5-6, included: Gracie Charles, Alyssa Daw, Lauren Fowler, Blaze Rosales, Sydney Tisi, Hamza Tayyab and Wyatt John.
Participants in the Jr. High Division included: seventh-graders Maria Lucella Macaraig and Brenleigh Marie DeMoss; eighth-graders Emmett Tso, Mikyla Johnson, Jaycelyn Tallsalt, Maric Bilagody and Variah Parrish.
Melissa Bilagody, principal at Tuba City Jr. High School, said the Navajo Nation Science Fair is growing and becoming more competitive and getting bigger each year.
“Our students have represented Tuba City Jr. High well and have promoted their individual leadership and presentation skills,” she said. “It can be intimidating to present in a room full of other students who all want to place. Our students have done an excellent job — congratulations to the winners and their families.”
McCabe said students learned a lot during this entire science fair process. He said students learned the scientific method, which includes six steps: ask a question, do background research, construct a hypothesis, test your hypothesis, analyze your data and draw a conclusion, and effectively communicate your results.
McCabe said many people contributed to the success and participation in the local and Navajo Nation science fairs. He thanked the Tuba City Unified School District, all the schools, parents, teachers and bus drivers. He also thanked the Navajo Nation for hosting the annual science fair and he said he is looking forward to next year’s competition.