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It’s challenging to conduct research and design an experiment and project in your native language as an elementary school student. 

Now imagine that you’re learning scientific language and concepts in a foreign language. Imagine taking specialized, scientific language and complex ideas, trying to convey your thoughts in another language, and attempting to compete in a science project with your hypothesis. Imagine doing it in a foreign country, in a foreign language, without the linguistic support of your parents.

Meet Benjamin Rosales, a seventh-grader at Dixon Middle School. Benjamin’s family moved from Argentina two years ago when Ben was in the fifth grade. He couldn’t speak a single word of English then. It took him four months to achieve mastery over basic English Language skills, and he used his newfound language skills to craft a project the following year. 

We interviewed Ben on his experience designing the project, his biggest challenges as an English Language Learner tackling the sciences in English, and the newfound self-assurance learned from the experience. 

Read his interview below.

And, if you’d like to compete in your STEM Fair, Provo City School District STEM Fair is Feb 10, 4-7pm at Centennial Middle School–join us to check out cool projects, participate in Micro STEM Fest and hear about projects from community leaders–everyone is invited.

Q: What was the most significant challenge in designing your STEM Fair Project?

A: Overcoming the barrier to language was the most challenging part of the project. I spoke English for less than a year before I started, and translating my thoughts took a lot of work.

Sometimes I also had to use translation tools to fix my project and make corrections to unclear text.

In the last few days, I made some edits to my presentation to make everything read as clearly as possible. I had to go back and fix translations, then print new paper copies for my presentation. My mom didn’t speak English, so I had to speak for my mom to finish printing and designing for my project.

It was messy, but I did it. My teacher didn’t speak Spanish, so I had to work hard to finish my presentation.

Q: Could you share a little about your project?

A: I started by writing down my ideas on paper and then I showed them to my teacher and my parents. I wanted to learn about the density of liquids because of two different factors. 

First, my dad had experience working making juice in juice factories. He saw how factories gather fruit, and he would fix and clean the machines that pressed fruit. Secondly, my older sister and her friend brought home a science experiment where they tried to mix water and oil. Interestingly, different fruit juices don’t mix because of their densities.

I wanted to know how I could combine these two interests and how different fruit juices might mix according to density. 

I made a hypothesis that water would be the least dense and that most of my fruit juices would sit somewhere in the middle, but I proved my hypothesis wrong– water sat in the center of the mix, and the fruit mixes all striated above and below. 

Q: If you could change your project in hindsight, what would you change?

A: I would have made my hypothesis and experiment more complex. I tried adding complexity during my research phase, but I needed more time to figure it out. My leading question was pretty simple, and if I were to do it again, I’d make my experiment more applicable.

 

Q: What did you learn from your project?

A: I didn’t expect my project to do well when I started my experiment. I was surprised when I passed through the first round and more surprised when I passed again.

 I didn’t know I could do so well– until I did it.

Again, if you think you have what it takes to enter STEM Fair and win awesome prizes, enter a project by registering at the Provo Stem Judge website.  Check out our STEM Fair Prize Closet and join now! 

To restate, Provo City School District STEM Fair is Feb 10, 4-7pm at Centennial Middle School–join us to check out cool projects, participate in Micro STEM Fest and hear about projects from community leaders–everyone is invited.

See you there!

Spencer Tuinei
  • Communication Specialist
  • Spencer Tuinei
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