Celebrating curiosity: Pine Hill Elementary's Project Expo stirs enquiring young minds

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What do Ramen noodles, hedgehogs, lava lamps and the country of Eritrea have in common?

All were subjects that stoked the curiosity of young researchers at this year's Project Expo at Pine Hill Elementary School.

The Nov. 9 science and culture fair took over the school gym, which morphed into a carnival of colorful cardboard displays emblazoned with text, photos and graphics.

Fourth-grader Collin Stroth chose the demolition derby as his topic of study. Third-graders Chloe Strom and Sami Behrends shared their research on the humble hedgehog. Fifth-graders Raquel Perez and Emma Xiong thought big, choosing the earth as their subject. Second-grader Ben Badhaso and fifth-grader Jitu Moti collaborated on a timeline of video games
The expo was coordinated by Patrice Siefert, who teaches English learners. She and teacher Barb Hranicka, now retired, brought the expo back last year after a seven- or eight-year hiatus.

The subjects weren't limited to strict science categories, Siefert said. Any school-appropriate subject was eligible; most work was conducted outside of school. But she hosted after-school research sessions because some students needed help narrowing the focus of their topic from, say, the history of sports to the history of a specific sport.

This year's expo had 74 students, twice as many as it did during its comeback four years ago, Siefert said.

Fifth-graders Zen Moua and Tony Gargaro got a special recognition for their fourth straight year exhibiting in the Project Expo.