Science Fair Breaks Norms, Furthers Knowledge


Lette HuismanNever judge a student by her major.

Illustrating this point is biology major Aletta Huisman ’14 of Hudsonville, Michigan, whose middle school science fair was a slight break in tradition from Trinity’s required Honors Work in the Major.

Honors Program students are required to present a project at the end of the academic year that encompasses work from their programs of study. Projects are generally delivered in the form of academic conferences, journal publications, and formal presentations.

But Huisman decided to host a science fair for local elementary students. 

She said that although she is capable of conducting laboratory research, the assignment for her would become more of a task to complete than something she wanted to passionately pursue.

“There’s more to me and my story than studying metabolic pathways, growing cells, and mixing chemicals,” Huisman wrote in her blog for the program.

Trinity Lab WorkAssistant Professor of Biology Clay Carlson, Ph.D., recognized this about Huisman and advised she plan a science fair. The event would combine complex themes from biology, ecology, chemistry, and physics with hands-on interaction and education. Dr. Craig Mattson, director of the Honors Program, helped form a proposal for the project, and Huisman scheduled the fair for May 2.

“Lette Huisman’s project is a reminder that the Honors Program is about leadership formation,” said Mattson. “So, for Christian liberal arts students, what does that look like? One answer? It looks like the smart, self-giving service that Lette conducted in this project.”

Huisman shared her initial ideas at the VanderVelde scholarship dinner. Though she was first intimidated by the task, she grew confident about her project as the evening progressed.

“I met professors who were interested in my ideas and excited to see them come to life. I met other students who were genuinely intrigued,” Huisman said. “And most importantly, I found myself speaking passionately about my project. I found myself proud of and excited to share my work. I found myself loving this collegiate culture and greatly anticipating May 2.” 

At the fair, which she titled the “2014 Jr. Trolls Science Fair: When Science Is Shared,” 44 students from surrounding middle schools worked in Trinity’s lab, talked with current science majors, and learned about career opportunities in the field.

The fair would not have been possible without the help of Trinity professors who recognized Huisman’s unique passions. Carlson and Mattson helped the senior put together the concepts for her fair, while other professors helped form mini-lessons for participants.

After graduation, Huisman plans to attend Grand Valley State University in Michigan to study occupational therapy.

“There are a lot of things in this life that I love,” Huisman said. “Laboratory research is not one of them. Kids are, though. And science as a whole is, too. Something that good is worth being shared. To God be the glory.”