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Knollwood Students Vie as Science Stars

Students experimented with solutions for better hand washing habits.

Knollwood Teacher Kristen Levy and sixth-grade students Leila Maldonado, Kira Fleischer, and Jake Downey at the Stars Science Competition at Monmouth University (Photo: Fair Haven schools)
Knollwood Teacher Kristen Levy and sixth-grade students Leila Maldonado, Kira Fleischer, and Jake Downey at the Stars Science Competition at Monmouth University (Photo: Fair Haven schools)

When a group of students at Knollwood School in Fair Haven noticed a large number of their classmates coughing and sneezing their way through the day, they brainstormed to figure out what they could do to allay the problem.

The students — eighth-grader Reed DiCenso and sixth graders Aaron Bernstein, Jake Downey, Kira Fleischer and Leila Maldonado — suspected a link between inadequate hand-washing and the spread of viruses.

So they conducted some research and organized their findings. The data in tow, the group was one of 27 teams from eight schools that vied for recognition at the 2014 Stars Science Competition at Monmouth University in West Long Branch on Jan. 11. The students did not win in the competition, but are applying their research to a solution at school.

The Knollwood students, assisted by fifth grade teacher Kristen Levy,  presented their data at Monmouth in digital form and using a colorful poster that outlined steps taken along the way.  

"The Stars Science Competition provided a great opportunity for the students to speak clearly about their ideas and research, answering questions from judges and from students in other school districts," said Levy. "They had a golden opportunity to interact with professionals who perform this type of research for a living."

Here's how the students conducted their research and applied the results to a solution, according to a release from Knollwood:

When research confirmed the link between inadequate hand washing and an uptick in illness among students, the group decided to find out a bit more about their classmates' hygiene habits.

They surveyed a number of fourth and fifth grade students and found that a majority of them washed their hands for less than twenty seconds.

Armed with this information, they brainstormed a number of ways in which to encourage increased hand washing.

After sifting through the data and discussing the many plans, the group settled on two courses of action to motivate more students to wash their hands for an increased period of time.

First, the student researchers inserted squeakers from dog toys into the soap dispensers of the school's student restrooms.

They then surveyed the fourth and fifth graders again to see if the desire to push the soap dispenser handle and hear the squeaking sound would have a positive effect on hand washing.

After completing their research, they removed the squeakers and instead placed comic strips on mirrors above the sinks in the same restrooms, hoping that students would linger a bit while washing their hands.

After asking the fourth and fifth grade students about their hand-washing routines for  third time, they discovered that the squeakers had outperformed the comic strips.




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