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Fifth-graders examine product properties
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Fifth-graders (from left) Jadon Dodson (kneeling), Jonas Neaves and Delvin Roberts test which brand of tennis balls bounce the highest in their science class at Albert Harris Elementary. (Contributed photos)
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Friday, September 13, 2013

By KIM BUCK - Special to the Bulletin

Which soda tastes better — Coke or Pepsi? Which brand of paper towels is the strongest? Do “Double-Stuf” Oreos really have double the filling of regular Oreos?

These were just some of the questions posed by fifth-graders at Albert Harris Elementary School recently as they designed their own Consumer Reports-style science experiments. Students worked in small groups to come up with a real-life consumer question and then designed and carried out experiments in the school science lab with teacher Greg Hackenberg.

“I told them they need to be savvy consumers so they don’t get ripped off,” Hackenberg said. “I wanted to make the learning as real and authentic as possible.”

“I think we had a lot of freedom,” said fifth-grader Jonas Neaves, who was part of a group measuring which brand of tennis ball bounces the highest. To be fair, they tested each brand three times.

“I think it was actually real fun,” said Isaleik Schoefield. His group compared which brand of potato chip holds the most dip. They chose chips of similar size, weighed them individually, then weighed them after dipping to find out how much dip each held on average.

The group chose its question because “I was actually curious which one holds more dip,” he said.

One group tested which brand of toilet paper is strongest by measuring how many weights each could hold before it tore. Another tested which brand of popcorn has the fewest unpopped kernels after popping, as well as whether room temperature popcorn pops better than cold or frozen popcorn. As part of the fun, the students got to eat the popped kernels.

Another group tested which brand of chewing gum makes the biggest bubble and which one has the longest flavor.

Taniya Dillard’s group investigated which brand of diaper is most absorbent. “We thought it would be fun,” she said, and relevant because she has a 1-year-old brother.

Group members submerged each (clean) diaper in water for 10 seconds, then weighed it to determine how much liquid was absorbed.

Some experiments were more successful than others. Students had to make sure the testing conditions were exactly the same for each brand they tested so that the results would be accurate. Because some of the experiments involved food, one group ended up eating or giving away most of their “materials” before the experiment was complete.

“We talked about manipulating variables. A big component is reflection — what did we do right? If we redo this project, what could we do to make it a fair test?” Hackenberg said.

(Editor’s note: Kim Buck is community outreach and grants coordinator for the Martinsville Schools.)


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