USD 382 students share their state science fair experiences at school board meeting Monday

Ruby Howell
Pratt Tribune
Pratt students sharing their state science fair adventures with the USD 382 Board of Education members last Monday included (from left) Jesse Kemper, Charlie Mandl, Dylan Lehman and Allison Goeman.

Middle school students from Pratt USD 382 competed at the state science fair last month, earning outstanding results. They shared their projects and experiences with USD 382 BOE members on Monday.

In the 4th-5th grade division, 5th grader Charlie Mandl got first in his category of Plant Science and third overall in Division 3 with his project “How does Gibberellic Acid Affect the Growth of the Leaves of a Spider Plant.” 

In Division 2, which is composed of 6-8th graders, Jesse Kemper, an 8th grader, got first in the category of Material Science with his project “How to Make Concrete Float.” 

Dylan Lehman, a 6th grader, received third place in the Physics and Astronomy category with his project, “Earth’s Titling Axis and the LUX of the Seasons.” 

Allison Goeman, a 6th grader, received first in the category of Biomedical and Health, meaning she qualified to enter her project in the Broadcom Master Science Fair which is a National fair for Middle School students.

Science coach Lu Bitter said she was very proud of her students, and that the Pratt team has a legacy of being a strong one. In the late 70’s through the 1990’s every elementary class, Middle school, and the 9th grade General Science did a science experiment or project with their classes and it was displayed at the science fair. As many as 250 students did science projects and entered the fair. The runner up and “Best” projects received awards, and the overall best project even got a scholarship to PCC. Over 50 people judged the fair. The judges were people of the community who knew their stuff. They were science instructors, vets, nurses, lab technicians, you name it.  

Bitter said that she, along with fellow science teacher, Janelle Meade (retired) required all of their 9 th grade students to do a project. The high school biology and general science classes did special events for the elementary students when they came to see the fair. Some of the projects were: Tour a Thunderstorm, Space Camp, Tour the Heart and Lungs, Dissect Eyes, and Plant Adventure. 

The science fair was stopped in the late 90’s. Bitter said she has since tried to revive it but that it will never be as good as it was in the old days. In 1984, Bitter, along with Annette Lee, Janelle Meade started a Science Club. Their purpose was to “further in-depth science experiences for students interested in science fields.” The club took many students through a variety of adventures like going to Alabaster Caverns, digging crystals at salt flats, touring

the “kitchen” at the zoo, going to K-state science day, building BlueBird houses for KDWPT and various special speakers. Science Club is still active at the High School today; Mr. Heath Sharp and Ms. Joy Schmidt are the sponsors the club now.

Pratt students have qualified every year to go to the state competition held at WSU, and have won the best small school award several times and have had two students qualify to go to nationals throughout the years. Pratt alumna Katie Buhler went to Boston and Jorgia Elliott went to Washington D. C.. 

In 2018, Pratt Alumni Kevin Johnson, won the state and went to the ISEF in Pittsburgh, PA. He is now a student at K-State with a majors in geology and geography.

“I believe in hands-on science, students exploring their area of interest, and working hard to put their best foot forward,” Bitter said.“ Many students do not believe in themselves and need a little guidance and coaching to find out they can excel. By doing science projects students practice the skills they will need for college, jobs, and life. They build confidence and believe in themselves.”