BLS Scholars Dominate at Citywide Science Fair

March 26, 2020

Head Master Skerritt

On February 29, Boston Latin School students showcased their independent research projects at Boston’s annual City Science Fair, winning 21 awards in both the middle school and high school divisions.
The overall first-place prize in the Junior Division went to Islay Shilland (VI), who built her project around the question, “Does a person’s age affect the age they interpret an ambiguous figure to be?” Peter Wadsworth (IV) also earned a first-place prize in the Senior Division for a project investigating the correlation between a person’s self-esteem and the types of dreams a person has. Overall, BLS took home 12 awards in the Junior Division and nine in the Senior Division.
“I wanted to do something I was interested in, since it’s a long-span project […] I like artwork a lot, and I’m interested in psychology, and my dad helped me come up with the idea,” comments Shilland regarding the inspiration behind her project. She explains that the concept of the “ambiguous figure” that she studied in her project meant an optical illusion that can be interpreted in two different ways. Shilland described that one of the most meaningful experiences she had while doing her research was meeting new people, ranging from classmates to family members and neighbors.
Wadsworth also tackled a topic related to psychology and the study of the subconscious, focusing on answering the question, “Dreams: How real are they?” He mentioned that his interest in this project originated from often sharing dreams with family. Having competed in the Junior Division of the City Fair two years in a row, Wadsworth notes that competing at the senior level was a far different experience, commenting, “I feel like I got to talk with the judges a lot more, and since I genuinely love this project, I was able to go on about it and answer as many questions as they wanted.”
Along with the other nine winning projects at the senior level, Wadsworth’s project was a part of the BLS Summer Research Program, which took place during the first two weeks of July last year. Under the guidance of Ms. Kathleen Bateman, Director of the Science Department, and eighth-grade science teacher Mr. Scott Balicki, the program provided an opportunity for interested students to look deeper into their chosen topics.
“BLS students underestimate themselves. By raising the academic expectations and providing support and resources, students in our Summer Science Research Camp can perform very high-level projects in spite of our aging laboratory facilities,” comments Ms. Bateman on the purpose of the program.
While the BLS Summer Research Program provided hands-on learning for students, they were also meaningful learning experiences for teachers. Especially because students and teachers are no longer in a normal classroom setting. They had to overcome challenges such as lack of space and the summer heat hindering certain experiments. Teachers realized the importance of listening to students and working closely with them and fostering an open space for students to solve their own problems rather than guiding them every step of the way.
Mr. Balicki encourages interested and passionate students to join, commenting, “Ms. Bateman and I are committed to supporting everybody who walks through our doors and trying to help them develop the best possible project that they can so that they can learn more about the world and can develop as a learner and a scientist.” This year, the program is slated to take place right after the school year ends, with meetings every weekday from June 22 to July 3.

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