Lifelong Learners and Leaders at Larta and PPCS
by Jelani Odlum and Claire Anderson
On June 7th, we had the great privilege and delight of representing Larta as independent judges at Public Policy Charter School’s Third Annual Science Fair. We were inspired and heartened.
Public Policy Charter School (PPCS), located in Central Los Angeles, serves fifth to eighth grade students in a historically overcrowded and low-performing school area. Over 90% of PPCS students qualify for a reduced lunch program, and the student body consists of a sizable English Language Learner population. After its founding in 2015, PPCS became one of the nation’s first schools to focus on the area of public policy. Its mission is to provide a “safe, supportive, and dynamic learning environment that delivers a rigorous and engaging, college-preparatory curriculum” in order to prepare students for success not only in high school and college, but to serve as leaders in their own communities and beyond.
PPCS incorporates a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Mathematics, or STEAM, curriculum in its instructional program. Showcasing this STEAM training, its annual Science Fair represented the culmination of eight weeks of research and preparation by the students to develop a hypothesis, test it through the creation of a project, and produce their final poster board presentation. We were impressed by the students’ enthusiasm, the level of creativity and research demonstrated in the projects, and each team’s willingness to work together during the development phases, as well as to support each other through the oral presentations. We were also struck by the relevant and timely themes that connected many projects throughout the classrooms, including preparation for natural disasters, clean energy, and consumer product efficacy.
The core points of our judging rubric included experiment quality, project log & report, display, and overall oral presentation. The winning projects from each classroom were:
Which Detergent is More Efficient? – a real-life comparison of three major clothing detergent brands
Va Va Boom – a volcano experiment and diorama
How to Make Hair Color Change in Heat – an exploration of thermochromics using thermal changing pigment for hair
Liquid Nitrogen – an observation of liquid nitrogen and its dynamic effects
Secrets to a Clean Life – a bacteria sampling comparison of a comb, doorknob, and piano keys
At Larta, we seek to be lifelong learners and leaders in innovation and technology. Engaging with the students gave us the opportunity to put into practice this core value. This is a value that is, of course, central to PPCS’ mission as well, to cultivate leaders and, by extension, innovators. In our discussions with students, we focused on the importance of collecting data, and the excitement of learning something new or unexpected. Many times the students’ hypotheses were found to be incorrect. However, their enthusiasm didn’t wane. Indeed, the conversations that ensued were both interesting and informative. Many students even discussed ways that they could continue to build on their research and take their projects to the next level.
We’re excited to see what the students of PPCS come up with next, and look forward to participating in future Science Fairs and events!