Science & Sustainability


Science Fest

In the tradition of meaningful exhibitions and scholarly writing, The New School Science Fest is another annual opportunity to show authentic learning and student project design. All science classes participate in the fair in conjunction with exhibitions, and there is also a Project in the Sciences class during Q3 where students have the free-
dom to design and pursue their own projects. The Science Fest is not just the traditional categories: we include social science, history of science, psychology, and engineering. Volunteer judges who are professionals in STEM fields come to provide our students with valuable feedback and the opportunity to communicate about their projects in a semi-professional setting.

Diana Gibson
Biology Teacher

Problem Solving and Mental Sets

New School Science Fest is one of the most interesting times of the year and, for me, one of the most special. I am currently in 8th grade which means I have only had the opportunity to participate in the Science Fest twice. Both of the times I participated in the Science Fest I wrote papers on math education psychological studies I conducted. This year my project was titled “The Effect of Question Order
on Abstract Problem Solving”. I researched the idea of “mental sets” and how they affect people’s test taking and performance ability, specifically with math related topics. I used the students in Algebra 1 and Geometry classes at The New School and ended up with statistically significant results. I spent lots of time on this project and the idea that I got the opportunity to present my project and be asked questions on it was a large source of motivation and a really inspiring opportunity. I loved speaking with judges. Their insight, patience, and unique questions required lots of critical thinking and overall knowledge of the topic. I cannot wait for next year where I can continue to work on projects like this one and continue expanding my skills and abilities.

Emily Ocasio
Class of 2023

Are Politics a Choice?

This year, I had the amazing opportunity of participating in The New School Science Fest as part of the psychology section. I was taking Psych Lab with Jenny at the time, and we all did science fair projects. My project was on the effect of Big Five Personality on political affiliation. This topic interested me because my dad works for the government, so I am surrounded by politics a lot of the time, and be-
cause personality is something that really intrigues me. Jenny helped me along the way with parts I didn’t quite understand, like graphing the results of my study. Presenting to the judges gave me a chance to talk about my project, which was rewarding because I’m not very scientifically minded, so I was proud of my project and the work I put into it. All in all, the Science Fest was an eye opening event
that allowed me to think critically about a topic I don’t usually think a lot about.

Sofie Strompf
Class of 2021

Heavy Metal Removal Using Cilantro and Water Lily

The water we drink and use every day is processed and filtered through many processes and treatments. And we thought, ‘What about the contaminated water in nature?’ For there to be usable water for plants and animals, nature must have its own way of purifying water. Then we started researching plants that had water-purifying properties, and that was how we came to our science fair project. Par-
ticipating in the science fair was a first for us, setting up the board and engaging in discussion about our project with the judges was an exhilarating experience. Winning the first place in the environmental science category and also best in show in the fair was undoubtedly a very proud moment for us. We also really liked the fact that we had a lot of freedom in working toward our final product and having the school provide the equipment and materials that we needed.

Khoi Tran Vy Vo
Class of 2020
Class of 2020

Can You Catch Happy?: The Effect of Social Interactions on Positive Mood

Plus: Lightning Rods and Electrodynamics

I entered two projects into the Science Fest. In the psychology category, I entered Can You Catch Happy: The Effect of Social Interactions on Positive Mood, which researched if positive mood could be spread in a social group. In the physics category, I entered The Evil Man in the Sky With a Beard who Goes Zappy Zap and is Plural: Lightning Rods and Electrodynamics, which encompassed a 5/12
scale model lightning rod called The Zeus Catcher 500000000000 in order to demonstrate how a lightning rod functions. I chose the topics because I was very interested in emotions and mood and because, of all the things I learned in my physics class, lightning and lightning rods stuck out the most. It was a long and difficult process to start out with practically nothing and end with presenting to the
judges at the Science Fest. I first researched my topics extensively, then I took notes on and annotated my research, began outlining my experiments, set up for
my experiments before performing them, collected and analyzed my data, wrote my research papers, prepared my presentations for the Science Fest, set up my stations at the Science Fest, and nervously and somewhat professionally explained my projects to the judges. It was a demanding and laborious but exciting process, and in the end I won two awards, second place for psychology and third place for physics.

Michelle Cliff
Class of 2021

Science Fest 2019 Winners


Gold Medal (1st) Emily Ocasio -”Problem Solving and Mental Set”

Silver Medal (2nd) Max Boyd -”MDMA for PTSD Patients”

Bronze Medal (3rd) Carys Clatyon -”Asteroids”


Gold Medal (1st) Erika Choi -”What Determines Coffee Flavor?”

Silver Medal (2nd) Collin Stover -”Exoskeletons and Stroke Rehabilitation”

Bronze Medal (3rd) Evan Gao -”Artificial Hearts, Past and Present”


Gold Medal (1st) Samantha Tone -”Electric Circuits Made from Ink”

Silver Medal (2nd) Jay Kang & Qianyu Feng -”Balloon Car”

Bronze Medal (3rd) TIE:

Matthew Zindler -”Resonance Modes in Different Non-Newtonian Fluids”

Michelle Cliff -”Lightning Rods and Electrodynamics”


Gold Medal (1st) Vy Vo & Khoi Tran -”Heavy Metal Removal Using Cilantro and Water Lily”

Silver Medal (2nd) Chase Kidder & Richmond Forsen -”Plant Proximity in Terraria”

Bronze Medal (3rd) Clara Marshall -”Representing Albedo through Experimentation”


Gold Medal (1st) Chase Heine, Lauren Hailey, Maddie McWilliams, & Ethan Ocasio -”Blood as a Buffer”

Silver Medal (2nd) Elena Hamann -”The Extent of Caffeine as a Diuretic on Regular Caffeine Consumers”

Bronze Medal (3rd) Mya Schlesinger & Tess Pleasure -”How Does Sense of Smell Affect Sense ofTaste”


Gold Medal (1st) Sarah Paskow -”Alkaline Water”

Silver Medal (2nd) Spencer Zhou & Gary Gao -”Hair Bleaching”

Bronze Medal (3rd) Troy Guo & Keyang Li -”Nail Rusting”


Gold Medal (1st) Sofie Strompf -”Are Politics a Choice? Correlation between Big Five Personality Traits and Political Affiliation”

Silver Medal (2nd) Michelle Cliff -”Can You Catch Happy? The Effect of Social Interactions on Positive Mood”

Bronze Medal (3rd) Ethan Ocasio -”Did I See That Right? The Effect of the Presence of Color on Visual Memory”


Black Oval Trophy TIE:

Vy Vo & Khoi Tran -”Heavy Metal Removal Using Cilantro and Water Lily”

Emily Ocasio -”Problem Solving and Mental Set”

Earth Day

This year, we had several new Earth Day activities. We assembled recently purchased compost bins, cleaned out our recycling and trash bins, organized our collected recyclables to be sent for recycling by the Terracycle program, broke ground for a brand new pollinator garden, and hosted a volunteer speaker from Clean Fairfax to talk to us about what can and cannot be recycled and composted. In addition, as in previous years, we cleared trash and invasive weeds from our campus, and cleared trash
from our neighboring park and street. New this year, the collected trash was tallied and categorized for Clean Fairfax’s records about what is dumped toward our watershed.

The new pollinator garden is located behind the playground in a difficult-to-mow patch of ground. Over the summer, volunteers will come to school to water it as the plants become established. With increasing use of pesticides, pollinators are fighting for survival, and our garden will provide them a safe place to nest and gather nectar and pollen. In turn, they will also pollinate the plants on our campus and surrounding areas, which are now freer of trash and weeds that can leech toxins into the soil and
choke out desired plant growth.

Through the activities we have also raised awareness on campus about reducing waste, as can be evidenced by more accurately sorted recycling, increasing shipments to the Terracycle program which allows us to recycle some items, like beauty product packaging, that cannot go through the city’s system, and filling compost bins.

Eden Costagliola
Math & Dance Teacher

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