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Dothan schools, ACOM partner for science fairs
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Dothan schools, ACOM partner for science fairs

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Dothan City Schools students have been busy researching, experimenting, testing, and inventing projects for science fairs and having fun in the process.

Since 2015, DCS and Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine (ACOM) have partnered together with a mentor program for students to support science fair initiatives for schools in the district.

District Instructional Specialist Dr. Mark Dunaway has met with school leaders, teachers, and students to ensure all schools are supported and encouraged to participate.

“The science fair has always been one of my passions, and it’s a great opportunity for students to exercise their critical thinking skills and explore the world of science,” Dunaway said. “It also allows students to develop interpersonal skills and to take ownership of something they have researched.”

Dunaway said medical volunteers, staff members, and students from ACOM have been instrumental in providing resources and encouraging student participation.

Samira Stutman, an ACOM student, said, “The science fairs are a great way to connect and interact with students. We loved interviewing the students and seeing so many unique projects.”

ACOM student Will Baker said it’s great to see the science fair participants having fun. “They were genuinely excited to present their projects to us,” Baker said.

Last week, Heard Elementary School and Carver School for Math, Science, and Technology set the stage for future science fairs with nearly 60 projects and smiling faces on students presenting them.

Students in grades 4-12 were able to participate, but Dunaway said students start preparing for the scientific process and learning foundational skills in kindergarten by participating in class science projects.

Heard Principal Tamika Fleming said, “It was great seeing students beam with joy when they presented their projects. Working with Dr. Dunaway and ACOM has been a plus also.”

Merissa Thornton, lead advisor for science at Heard, said, “Our science fair was more like an invention convention, and students gained problem-solving skills that will help them in the future.”

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Connor Josefosky, Chasity Knight, Payden Roberson, and Haley Johnson, all sixth-grade students at Heard, agreed the science fair is a fun learning experience.

Josefosky, who partnered with Johnson, said he learns a lot about teamwork and working together towards a common goal.

Knight learned preparation skills, and Roberson became more comfortable speaking to others during the process because she enjoyed explaining how her invention worked.

Carver students said their projects were selected for a variety of reasons.

Carver Sixth grader Christian McKay said he picked his experiment topic because he likes to cook.

“My experiment tested to see if the color of a baking pan affected the amount of time it takes to cook a pizza or cookies,” McKay said.

Carver student Drake Randolph said he had so much fun with his project that he wants to do further testing to get results on different people.

Carter Bright, winner of the highest overall score with a project experimenting the effect grips have on the distance a golf ball can travel said, “The process of building, presenting, and having deadlines really improved my skills in time management.”

Carver science lab teacher for grades 3-6 Aubrie McClenney said the students put in a lot of work and came up with creative ideas. “One student even created a hoverboard that levitates using a leaf blower.”

“Seeds have been planted today with all of these impressive ideas that could possibly one day change an industry, and I am excited to see how students progress at the next level,” Carver Principal Chris Payne said.

Winners of the school science fairs will advance to district and regional-level fairs and could continue to advance to an international level.

More science fairs will take place during December and January, and the ACOM science fair is on Jan. 28.

“The students are our future, and it is all about them at the end of the day” Dunaway said. “Assuming my new position, I am grateful for this partnership with ACOM, and I can’t wait to see even bigger things happen in our school system.”


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