Tonasket Choice High School teams up with fifth graders on science projects

Tonasket Choice High School students partnered with fifth graders from to answer scientific questions, culminating in a science fair.

TONASKET – Students from the Tonasket Choice High School partnered with fifth graders from the elementary to answer scientific questions, culminating in a science fair of sorts to showcase their experiments on Feb. 22 at the elementary.

“Chelsea Freeman and Debra Jones, from Choice High School, came up with the idea to partner with my class. In this partnership, Choice High School kids worked either one-on-one or in small groups to help my fifth graders answer scientific questions,” said teacher Kevin Lepley.

The students worked together for a few months and once they had their projects ready to go they decided to showcase them at an event and Lepley invited judges from Wenatchee, Twisp, Okanogan and Tonasket to come speak with the kids about their projects.

“The event went very well. Working with the Choice High School students gave both my fifth graders and the high school students a better understanding of teamwork. It also gave them a better understanding of how to conduct a science experiment, as well as life lessons on how to run an event,” said Lepley.

One of the experiments on display demonstrated the effect of hot and cold water on the elasticity of a rubber band. The rubber band was suspended from the top of a beaker with a small weight attached at the bottom. The students measured how much the band stretched in cold water versus hot water.

“We worked together for about a month. Working with a younger student feels nice and I definitely learned some things as well,” said Sophia Castaneda, who was teamed up with fifth-grade student Axel Alvarez.

“I thought it was cool learning what happens to the rubber band when we use cold and hot water,” said Alverez.

Alverez said they would take measurements on at what mark on the beaker the weight was at in cold then hot water, learning that their experiment demonstrated the band became more elastic in the hot water.

Among the many experiments on display were things like “A levitating water fountain with stroboscopic effects” and “Do submarines need fins?” where rubber band-powered submarines made from water bottles, both with and without fins, were used to test their theories. In addition to learning that fins help to stabilize their model submarines, but having some ballast helps as well. In addition, the subs worked better with two rubber bands powering them than they did with one.

Chelsea Freeman, lead instructor at Tonasket Choice High School, said her students learned a lot helping the elementary students.

“Some of the projects were advanced, maybe even too advanced for high school,” she said, but she felt it was a great opportunity for her students.

The Tonasket School District describes Choice High School, which is separate from the traditional high school, as “Big Picture Learning” that “is designed to help students who need a more self-centered and creative learning environment to meet their graduation and life goals.”

More can be learned about the Choice High School on the district’s website at and chosing from the drop down menu under schools.