Baldwin High School received much praise for hosting a Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PJAS) fair on Saturday, so much so that PJAS officials are considering hosting an event there every year, Baldwin-Whitehall School District Superintendent Dr. Randal A. Lutz said at a B-W School Board meeting on Wednesday night.
Lutz estimated that the annual fair, which is open to students in grades 7-12 from Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, brought around 1,000 competing students to Baldwin High this year from around 85 school districts.
But while approximately 60 Baldwin-Whitehall students volunteered to help to host the event, only one B-W student was among the 1,000 who actually participated. And that news alone put a damper on what was otherwise a great day for science in the district.
"If we don't have participants in the fair itself, it's a waste," said district parent Amy Schmotzer during public comments time at Wednesday's meeting. "We don't want our kids just to be the ambassadors."
Schmotzer is the mother of the lone B-W participant—junior Victoria Schmotzer, a student representative to the school board.
"I know that kids are very busy," board President Nancy Sciulli DiNardo said, "and they are overwhelmed and overworked and everything else that goes with it, but I think we need to do more to get our kids (involved).
"Perhaps seeing this (event) at the high school will motivate them ... but I think we need to do more."
Both Sciulli DiNardo and fellow board member Nancy Lee Crowder said that a lack of science-related activities at J.E. Harrison Middle School is a possible reason for a lack of interest in science at the high-school level.
"There's always been that disconnect between Harrison and the high school," Sciulli DiNardo said. "In elementary, I know that kids were really excited with science, but then, something happens where there's a disconnect.
"I don't want our students to just be volunteers to help other kids excel. I want our kids to be the ones (to excel)."
Added Crowder, "It's so disappointing to me, as a parent who volunteered for the PTA in elementary school, to see those science fairs that we had annually in those PTAs ... drop off, for some reason, up at Harrison.
"There's no science fairs or science events up in Harrison. And now, just to hear that just one person (participated on Saturday), that's just so disappointing to me."
Victoria Schmotzer pointed out that middle-schoolers, too, were eligible to participate on Saturday.
Amy Schmotzer said that entering projects in science fairs is an opportunity for students to earn scholarships.
"They're not hard projects," she said. "And (they) aren't expensive. It's a $4 board at Pat Catan's and some construction paper."
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