Young students learn to think like scientists at annual fair
The practice of science is often thought as something like tracking the path of a comet through space or finding a cure for a disease.
However, 233 area students participating in the 31st annual GATEway Science Fair learned first-hand that science starts with a simple question.
And those questions can start at home.
Nine-year-old Reeya Shinde didn't need to look too far for the subject of her science project. She wondered if her mother's longtime fear of dogs could be cured.
"She was OK with me experimenting on her, but she was also very scared of dogs," Shinde said.
Her process of working through the idea literally started small.
"We started with my friend's baby dog ... and we had my mom hold it. She wasn't comfortable with it licking her," Shinde said.
From there, they traveled to the Paws and Claws Humane Society, where her mother visited with three different dogs to help calm her fears.
In the end, Shinde declared her experiment a success, with "Dog Fear Can Be Cured" written across the top of her poster in bright colors.
"I'm confident enough that I did it," she said of changing her mother's feelings about dogs.
Working through a problem, step-by-step, is at the heart of the non-competitive science fair.
Each student brings a display about their project to the Mayo Clinic's Gonda Building in downtown Rochester. The hundreds of displays are set up on two floors, with the students staying nearby to explain their work. Each student is interviewed by three volunteer reviewers. About 100 volunteers roamed among the forest of displays to quiz the young scientists.
First-time volunteer reviewer Sonu Kashyap was impressed with how the elementary school students worked through their projects.
"They are really thinking about it and working things out. I think it's really cool," she said. "These kinds of opportunities take these student through a critical thinking process ... Learning these problem-solving skills is so critical at this age."
The science fair was conducted by GATEway, the Rochester chapter of the nonprofit Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented.