A Room Full Of Experts

5th grader Frankie Dige discusses his project, Theodore Roosevelt, with teacher Lisa Oliver. (Photo courtesy Newbury Elementary School Vice Principal Ray Gredder)

HOWELL – The brain power in the Howell Middle School North Cafeteria earlier this month was astounding, as 155 elementary school students in 2nd through 5th grade assembled for the 4th annual Knowledge Expo.

The Expo is actually a year-long research project that kicks off at the beginning of the school year in September – with a commercial. The one-minute video was created and narrated by group of students from Newbury School’s Project GOAL classrooms, and invited the community to come out to the Expo in June to hear from “student experts” on topics such as sports, food science, dinosaurs, coding, the human body, weather, motion, animals and agriculture.

3rd grader Phoebe Fox displays the chemistry behind bread making. (Photo courtesy Newbury Elementary School Vice Principal Ray Gredder)

  Students then submitted online proposals confirming their topic of choice and started the process of becoming a knowledge expert. Much of their research was completed after school hours, by identifying essential questions to ask and get answered in order to become an expert, and of course through the support of their families. All of their hard work, energy and passion came full circle at the Knowledge Expo, when they were able to show off their newfound expertise.

It’s safe to say that students really got into character when it came to their projects, whose topics ranged from genetics to influential quarterbacks in the NFL. Third grader Phoebe Fox, who shared the chemistry behind bread making, wore a chef’s hat. Students used the traditional tri-fold boards to share their expertise, but also added laptops and iPads so they could show videos and PowerPoints to their classmates, teachers and families in attendance. Demonstrations included events like changing liquids to solids and gases using ice, a tea kettle and a plastic cup.

But the Knowledge Expo wasn’t always so big. It has grown from one Land O’ Pines cafeteria of 25 kids into a district-wide event that boasts up to 200 students over the past four years. The brains behind the Expo are teacher Erin Cutillo, who took on the project as part of a sabbatical back in 2012. The research project was initially part of a series of inquiry-based units of study, and combines language arts research skills with many other cross-curricular skills.

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Sara Grillo is the Assistant News Editor/Writer at Micromedia Publications. She has lived in numerous areas within Monmouth and Ocean Counties for the past 9 years. Grillo studied Journalism and Communication Arts at Ramapo College and has held positions in Marketing, Public Relations and Sales prior to writing for Micromedia. Readers can contact her by emailing [email protected]