Will listening to a fast song make your pulse race? That was the question on eighth-grader Justice Dandridge’s mind as she began working on her independent science project.
Earlier this month, Justice and fellow eighth-graders presented their experiments at Harlem Academy’s second annual science fair. Our science program focuses on teaching students to understand and apply the scientific method with increasing independence. By the time they reach eighth grade, students are ready to conceive their own hypotheses and design experiments to test them. The science fair projects showcased those skills.
“When students are given the chance to explore on their own, it allows for depth of processing,” says Dr. Eric James, middle school science teacher. “Understanding science is all about process. It’s about learning to break things down, figure out bottlenecks, address problems, and find solutions. Plus, the fair gives students the opportunity to make presentations – a skill that will serve them well in high school, college, and beyond.”
As proud parents and teachers stopped by each project, students explained how they formed their hypotheses, accounted for variables, and conducted their experiments – never shying away from answering a variety of questions. When asked how she came up with her experiment, Justice shared a personal connection: “I love music and I realized that when I listen to fast songs, I feel hyped up. And slow songs calm me down. I wanted to see if that was true for other people.”
Over the course of several days, Justice measured her subjects’ heart rates before and after they listened to certain music. “I picked songs of different genres and tempos, and I made sure to write down each person’s heart rate before we began, as a base line,” she explained. “For example, my friend’s pulse started at 80 beats per minute (BPM) and after she listened to the first song, which was a fast remix, her pulse went up to 133 beats per minute.” Justice then calculated and recorded the average BPMs for each trial and analyzed her data. The result? “My hypothesis was right!” she said, excitedly.
No matter the outcome of their experiments, our students agree that going through the process and presenting to the public made it all worthwhile. “I like that the science fair lets us be creative in developing our projects and gives us the opportunity to explain our experiments,” said Justice.
Isabel Pacin, who tested the effectiveness of specific hair products, added: “This experience helps us gain a better understanding of the scientific method. There is no hand holding. We have to figure it out for ourselves. And that’s a good thing.”
Thank you to the Harry Winston Hope Foundation and Con Edison for sponsoring our middle school science program.