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River Glen Middle School

August 2018 - May 2019

We are so excited to start the Science Fair Club at River Glen Middle School. Alice is leading the weekly science program at this bilingual immersion school in San Jose. We teach students scientific method through a series of intriguing science experiments and help students start their own science research projects. This year, four students from River Glen competed in the prestigious Synopsys Science and Technology Championship in March 2019, and all four have won Special Awards. Five students presented their science research findings at the inaugural Opportunity X Science Fair in May 2019. 

Club adviser / sponsor: Ms. Kendall Bell

Opportunity X Representative: Alice Feng

Photos (scroll for more):


See more photos of our 2018-2019 River Glen program here.

WEEK 1: Sept 5, 2018   Strawberry DNA

Come join us to extract DNA from a strawberry! Every living thing has DNA, even strawberry. Today we used a simple method to extract DNA from strawberries. Strawberries have 8 copies of DNA in one cell, so it’s the easiest to get DNA from. The workshop started with a short lecture on DNA and DNA extraction by Alice, and ended with everyone taking home a test tube of strawberry DNA. 

WEEK 2: Sept 12, 2018    Shiny Pennies

Today we used vinegar to clean dirty pennies. Alice brought lots of dirty pennies. We added vinegar, waited and waited. The pennies turned out shiny! Then we put brand new bolts into the solution that was used to wash the pennies, guess what, they turned green. After the experiments, Alice explained the theory behind and encouraged the student to try different acidic solution at home, such as lemon juice, with varying acidity and see how the outcome changes. 


WEEK 3: Sept 19, 2018   Tech Challenge Day

Today is our Tech Challenge Day! We worked in groups of three. Each group is given 10 items: pencil, sponge, hanger, paper clip, plastic box, aluminum foil, tape, cardboard box, newspaper and wood stick. But each group can only use five the objects to build a freestanding structure that is as tall as possible and can balance an orange on top.


One team takes a shortcut, they hang their structure from the rooftop, of course their structure is the tallest and they got really nice prize! Other teams build their structure from the floor or desk. Some can stand for a while, some collapsed. But everyone had lots of fun. We also talked about why they chose what they choose, and how to improve their design next time.


Following the challenge, Alice gave the student one paragraph to read, and asked them to come up with science related questions from reading this simple paragraph, for example, why does basketball bounce? The team with the most questions got really nice prizes.


WEEK 4: Sept 26, 2018   Grow It Yourself Mushroom Material

We have been waiting for this day for a month! Our mycelium (muschroom) GIY (Grow It Yourself) kits finally arrived. Alice brought three kits - Aspen, Hemp, Kenaf. These are three different substrates, possessing different physical properties (weight, strength), so the mycelium material will be different once grown. To our surprise, one bag may be expired as it was packed on Jan 18!


Today, our job is to rehydrate mycelium from the GIY kit, give it nutrition, and wait for mycelium to regrow. The kit already contains dehydrated mycelium, once rehydrated with water and flour, mycelium will regrow. It’s very important to disinfect hands, gloves and all container, as mycelium is very prone to mold contamination.


We put the rehydrated filter bags into the closet under the sink, so they can grow quietly without sunshine and disturbance. We will come back in two weeks!


WEEK 5: Oct 10, 2018   Grow It Yourself Mushroom Material Continued

After two weeks, all of our mycelium bags have turned white, and there is lot of condensation inside the bag, meaning mycelium is alive, growing and breathing! We worked in groups to make mycelium planters and bricks. Most students prefer planters as they are more useful. The students took extra care to disinfect their hands and containers so that mycelium won’t get contaminated.


WEEK 6: Oct 24, 2018   Grow It Yourself Mushroom Material Continued

We worked with the students to study their mycelium planters and bricks. The students brainstormed the quantitative and qualitative properties of their own mycelium bricks. Alice brought home the mycelium containers and baked them so that mycelium will stop growing.


WEEK 7: Oct 31, 2018   Halloween

Halloween!!!! The kids got candies and goodie bags. They got their cooked mushroom containers back. All of their mycelium planters and bricks grew so well, there is not a single contamination case, Alice is so proud of the students, as they followed instructions precisely and disinfected their hands and utensils as instructed. Otherwise, mycelium can easily get contaminated by other green/yellow/black fungus. Only one planter has a hole on its bottom as there were not enough mycelium materials there. All other planters are in good shape and ready to serve a plant.  


WEEK 8: Nov 14, 2018   Synopsys mode

We are in Synopsys mode!!! Today Alice introduced school science fair and Synopsys science fair, the deadlines for Synopsys, and what need to be done before the deadline. She got the emails of all the students. Every two students teamed up, we have 7 teams total. Each team created a google folder and a document to keep track of their ideas. Most students said they ‘may’ attend synopsys and school science fair. The students all put some ideas in their “idea” doc, but Alice feels in order to get into Synopsys, the projects need to be a bit more involved. So she hand selected 40 more ideas from sciencebuddies, that she thinks fit into the students’ interest, knowledge and budget level.


WEEK 9: Nov 28, 2018   Synopsys projects finalized

Today is quite a success. We finalized on five projects, three of them are to be submitted to Synopsys, and two of them will go in Opportunity X Science Fair only.  All the projects are team projects, with two to three team members each. The students got lots of inspiration from sciencebuddies and came up with their own projects. Alice gave the students more details of Synopsys science fair, and how to fill out the applications, and other logistics.


WEEK 10: Dec 5, 2018   Planning for Synopsys

We welcomed two brand new members to join our science research club today. We will have three Synopsys projects and three Opportunity X-only projects. Alice helped the Synopsys teams filled out their page 1 applications and printed them out. Other teams continued working on their ideas of the projects -- writing proposals. We are onto a good start. The plan for the following weeks are:

Dec 12: filling out page 2-8 of the application, let parents sign.

Jan 9: review proposals

Jan 16: review proposals and check application package.

Jan 23: before Jan 23, mail all the packages.

WEEK 11: Dec 12, 2018  Filling out Synopsys applications

Today’s session is the last one of the year. The two Synopsys teams are busy filling out page 2-8 of the applications today. And they did it! The forms are being sent home so their parents can sign it. The teams also spent time on writing the proposals. They have some really promising and fun ideas. We will keep it a secret for now. See you all in 2019!


WEEK 12: Jan 9, 2019   Working hard on Synopsys applications

We are almost done with Synopsys application today. The two Synopsys teams are writing Detailed Research Plan today. They filled in much of the details. Alice will review the research plan during the week. A couple of more students join the club meeting today, they must have heard of the rewards of doing Opportunity X science fair. They started immediately on searching up science fair ideas.

WEEK 13: Jan 16, 2019   Synopsys projects in action - Sideway Plants

There is a storm today, but most of the students are still coming to attend the club meeting. Bravo!!!


Alice has helped the students revise their detailed research plans during the weekend, and the applications look good and ready to be mailed!!

During today’s meeting, Alice spent 30 minutes explaining the concepts involved in the two Synopsys teams’s projects - Water On Water, Sideway Plants vs  Right Side Up Plants, hence most of the club would know what’s going on and they can broaden their views on how to carry out their own science experiments.

Then the whole club started helping the Sideway Plants team plant their seeds. There are six types of plants being planted: basil, blue lake bean, radish, spinach, forget-me-not flower, alyssum flower. We planted the seeds into two germinations trays, each tray has 18 cells, so each type of plants occupy three cells in each tray. One tray is the UP tray, one tray is SIDEWAY tray.

The kids spent about 45 minutes planting the seeds. There is quite a lot of soil everywhere, so they spent 10 minutes cleaning up. Looks like no one in the club ever planted anything, so let’s hope the seeds will germinate and sprout next week.

Next week we will start on the Water On Water project.

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WEEK 14: Jan 30, 2019   Water on Water

After two weeks, all the plants are growing so well! All of them have sprouted. The radish grows the fastest. At a glance, the UP tray does grow better than the SIDEWAY tray. Frankie and Jorge measure the height of all the plants and wrote down the measurement on their lab notebook.

Our second group kicked off their project too. We have six identical bottles(10oz each) made of hard clear plastic, so each time, we can do the same experiment three times simultaneously, i.e. collecting three samples. In two large 30oz containers, we put water, salt, food coloring. The two containers have different salinity and colors (red and blue). Then we pour the salt water from the 30oz container into three 10oz bottles. Then we flip one blue colored bottle onto one red colored bottle and see how do the salt water mix. Some discoveries:

  1. If the bottle on the top has higher density, then it flows down and mix with the bottom bottle.

  2. If the bottle on the top has lower density, then it barely mixes with the bottom bottle, i.e., the water just float on top

We finished four sets of test today, will need to continue next week.


Other students are still searching online and deciding on their own projects to prepare for OpportunityX science fair.

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WEEK 15: Feb 6, 2019   You scream, I scream, we all love ice cream. 

GOOD NEWS: both our Synopsys projects are accepted!!! Congratulations!

Today Alice and the students make their own icecream. The ingredients include: milk, half and half, vanilla extract, sugar. We also need ice cubes and salt. We mixed the ingredients in a sandwich-sized ziploc bag, then put the smaller bag into a large ziploc bag filled with icecubes and salt. Then we shake, shake and shake the large bag for 10 minutes.  And we have icecreams!

The theory behind ice cream making is salt lowers ice’s melting point, so that when ice melts, the temperature is lower than 0C, which is needed for the mixture to turn into ice cream. We also need to keep shaking the bag, to break up ice crystals, hence ice cream will taste smooth.


After ice cream making, we continued the Water on Water project.


WEEK 16: Feb 13, 2019   Synopsys posters

Making posters. Today both Synopsys teams started working on their poster slides. Alice created a sample poster for each group, so they know what should be included in the poster. The two groups filled in their data, added details and did more online research on the theory behind their projects.


WEEK 17: Feb 27, 2019   Synopsys rehearsal

The two groups spent more time on their poster slides. Alice reviewed each slide with them and went through the theories, how they collected data, how they drew conclusions. In the end, each group rehearsed their speech.

Meanwhile, two more groups are working on their opportunity X projects. They are working on water quality and prism.


WEEK 18: Mar 6, 2019   Microscope exercise

Alice printed the slides in color for the two groups, and they glued the slides to the poster board. The posters look really nice!! And the two groups did one more rehearsal with more teachers presenting and asking questions. They did really well and got a few inspiring ideas from the teachers’ questions.


Meanwhile Alice also brought her microscope and pre-made slides for the other students to see things under a microscope.

WEEK 19: Mar 14, 2019   The 60th Synopsys Science and Technology Championship

Today is the day! The two groups did exceptionally well! They answered judge’s questions with a lot of confidence.

Great job Ava, Ashukem, Francisco, Jorge!!


WEEK 20: Mar 20, 2019   Opportunity X Science Fair Projects

We first discussed what happened at Synopsys and the kids are very excited to attend Opportunity X Science Fair in May.

Alice introduced the other two groups’  projects to the entire club. The club discussed how prisms reflect light and make rainbow; and what can be tested for water quality.  

The prism group has completed their science experiments, Ken is doing a great job organizing his team and the projects.

We also discussed what experiments to do in the next few club meetings.

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WEEK 21: Mar 27, 2019   Growing Crystals!

We used Borax, pipe cleaners, hot water, glass jars to make crystals.

First Alice explained the procedure and theory behind crystal growing. Then, we used pipe cleaners to make nicely shaped decorations. Then we heated one cup of water in microwave for two minutes and pour into the glass jar that is filled with 4 tablespoons of Borax. Last, we put the pipe cleaner into the jar, make sure it doesn’t touch any part of the jar. Crystals will grow overnight!


WEEK 22: April 7, 2019   Synopsys Science and Technology Championship Award Ceremony

Both our projects won awards at this most prestigious science fair in the country for their creativity, complexity and impact to the world.

Congratulations to Ava, Ashukem, Francisco, Jorge!! 

We also want to thank Alice and Ms. Bell for their dedication which makes the success possible. 


WEEK 23: April 17, 2019   Fruit and Vegetable Battery & Water Quality Project

We used fruit and vegetable to make battery today. Alice introduced the theory behind voltage, current, resistance, battery, circuit, series connection or parallel connection. The students learned to draw their own circuit. Then they formed two groups. They were given the same supplies and compete to see which group generated the most voltage or current.  

Afterwards, we worked on the Water Quality project. The girls have collected quite many bottles of water from different lakes or river, and they tested various attributes of the water. 


WEEK 24: May 1, 2019   SLIME!!!

Slime! Today’s club activity is super fun. We are going to make SLIME! But before we begin, we have to know the theory behind slime making. Alice showed the students the physical property of glue and how Borox acid transform glue into sticky yet flexible slime. Then the students started making slime out of glue and Borox powder. Even though they followed the recipe precisely, some of the slime were not looking or feeling good, either too sticky, or too stiff, or too watery. Hence the students used their own judgement to add other ingredients or tried different temperature water to make it work. The students were really doing serious experiments to make the best slime. In addition, they added glitter, form balls, shaving cream to create all sorts of funky slime. They were all very happy with their end products.  


WEEK 25: May 8, 2019   Opportunity X Science Fair Projects

From this week, we will work on writing powerpoint slides for the two Opportunity X fair projects - Prism and Water Quality. Ben is so motivated and has worked so hard after school that he has already finished his powerpoint slides, and now he is refining his presentation. Shayla and Marbella have successfully collected all the water quality data from quite many bottles of water they collected across many lakes and rivers; their persistence is so impressive and their projects are pregressing fast too.

WEEK 26: May 15, 2019   Opportunity X Science Fair Projects Poster and Rehearsal

There are only one and half week left before our inaugural Opportunity X Science Fair. The students have learned a lot throughout the year on  how to find science project topics, how to turn a science idea demonstration into a science fair project, how to collect data, how to write science fair slides, how to talk with judges, and how to speak confidently in public.

This week, we continued on finishing the powerpoint slides.

WEEK 27: May 22, 2019   Opportunity X Science Fair Projects Rehearsal

Ben, Shayla and Marbella completed their beautiful poster board today. All four groups rehearsed a couple of times. We are so ready for the upcoming Opportunity X Science Fair this Saturday!!!!

WEEK 28: May 25, 2019, 2-4pm,  Opportunity X Science Fair at Alum Rock Branch Library, 3090 Alum Rock Ave, San Jose, CA 95127

Four San Jose schools are attending today's Opportunity X Science Fair. We have a total of more then 100 attendees, including students, parents, teachers, judges, key-note speakers, volunteers, reporters. We are so proud of the accomplishments River Glen students have made this year. 

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