The journey of Al Spoo WHS judge recalls first county science fair in 1953

By on March 20, 2013

By: AL SPOO Special to the Record Express, Staff Writer

The very first science fair ever held in our area was at the Manheim Township school in 1951, but it was only for students attending that school. Two years later, Harold King decided to make it into a countywide project for all students of the major high schools.

In spring of 1953, when I was a sophomore, it was announced that the schools of Lancaster County were going to hold a science fair, and my science teacher, Mr. Fred Willing, urged me to display my insect collection.

I spent several weeks preparing everything in the best condition that I could and awaited the fair, but I never made it. Two days before the fair was to take place, I was working in my home lab and a sulfuric acid explosion occurred, spraying acid into my face and eyes and I nearly lost the eyesight in my left eye. My good teacher, Mr. Willing, came to my house and picked up my collection of 30 Riker mounts, which contained 242 insects from 12 different insect orders. That night, when the judging was finished, I had taken first prize in biology!

That was 60 years ago on March 13, 1953, the first science fair ever held in Lancaster County. And that was the beginning of my pursuit of the entire kingdom of nature. Little did I know then that today I would be a judge at the Warwick Science Fair, judging the work and endeavors of the students of today.

At that time there was a total of 39 entries in the divisions of biology, chemistry and physics. Students of only five high schools entered the fair — these were Hempfield Joint, Lititz, Manheim Township, Solanco and Warwick Township. When I won first place in the first fair, life was much simpler. There were no calculators, cell phones or computers, and I realize that a collection of 242 insects all properly labeled would never hold a candle to today’s sophisticated displays put on by 2013 students.

Today, before the Lancaster County Science Fair starts, most schools have their own science fairs at their respective schools and the top winners of those fairs go on to compete in the county fair. Warwick was going to have its science fair on Wednesday, March 6, but due to the "impending blizzard" it was canceled and rescheduled for March 13.

At Warwick there were 94 students entering their presentations, and these were divided into 10 groups of biochemistry, botany, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, earth & science, engineering, environmental science, health & medicine, microbiology and zoology.

The Lancaster County Science Fair is no longer a private program. Today it is headed by the North Museum of Lancaster and will be held on March 27 at the Franklin and Marshal Alumni Sports and Fitness Center. There will be 20 schools submitting 374 projects, with 50 entries coming from Warwick.

Al Spoo’s column, Nature Notes, runs twice a month exclusively in the Record Express. His column on Hemiptera (stinging bugs) will be published in next week’s edition. More SPOO, page A3

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