November 25, 2007

Winston Science Fair in Dallas Celebrates 20th Year: Fair Park Event Draws 21,000 From Around N. Texas

By Dianne Solis, The Dallas Morning News

Nov. 25--Lehman Marks, a 65-year-old Dallas high school science teacher, should be exhausted after the Winston science fair he organized drew a record 21,000 participants.

But already, Dr. Marks is cooking up ways to build on the success, with competitions that are accessible for young novices and sophisticated for teen veterans.

"To do science, you don't have to be a geek," said Dr. Marks, the science fair's founder and a teacher at Winston School.

The event known as "Winston Science" completed its 20th year at Fair Park on Tuesday. It was born at Winston School, a private campus in North Dallas for grades one through 12 that focuses on students with learning challenges such as dyslexia. The fair, which is partially underwritten by the Dallas Mavericks, now draws students from private and public schools around North Texas. About 200 science teachers volunteer as organizers.

At the heart of the event is a mission to get more students involved in science so that the U.S. can maintain its economic and intellectual perch in the world, Dr. Marks said.

"If we don't do something to get our kids excited about science, we are going to become a second-class country," he said.

Winning teams in the 40 competitions in categories of elementary school, middle school and high school are posted at the Web site

Tweaking of chemistry competitions such as root-beer brewing and the entry of new events such as cheese-making and a geology workshop are already under way, Dr. Marks said. A physics-based contest called "adventures in duct tape" had so many kids eager to tape a fellow student to the wall that participants were told to supply their own roll of duct tape, and Dr. Marks is now searching for a duct-tape benefactor.

"The month after [Winston Science], you just sail along in your class because of the energy," Dr. Marks said. "The kids just want to learn."

Dr. Marks himself holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry and zoology and a doctorate in anthropology. He is working on a master's degree in political science.

For 17-year-old Mark Craven, participation in Winston Science is propelling him into college, where he plans to major in engineering.

"There is a competition pretty much for anyone who likes anything," Mark said, noting that the fair has events centered on literature's Harry Potter, Eiffel Tower-in-miniature construction and building dinosaurs.

Mark, however, took up cardboard boat racing in the Fair Park lagoon. Participants labor to keep the boat from dissolving into mush through judicious, waterproofing with duct tape, he said. But Mark took his efforts to another level by designing a hull patterned after a stealth boat he saw on the Discovery Channel.

"Winston Science allows you to think outside the box," Mark said.

The science fair's big charm is the manner in which it motivates, said Mike Hanson, an elementary school science teacher in the Dallas school district. The excitement of a science fair with thousands of participants can propel a young person into an entire career, he said.

"I'm surprised an event like this hasn't gone national," he said.


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