Skinner's project was based on optical illusions, which show that things sometimes look different from the way they actually are.
"I wanted to do some experiments on how the brain can fool you," she said.
Skinner set up her experiment at the Mall at Mill Creek after asking the manager of the Stop and Shop if she could set up a table in that store. She then laid out numerous cards that displayed various optical illusions, and asked patrons to interpret them. These included things like "shape shifters" which showed different images depending on how someone looked them and "two and one," in which two images are shown in the same drawing, such as images of face or of a vase. Sometimes, people notice only one image.
"I kept track of how many they got right or wrong," Skinner said.
Skinner said her science teacher Jules Rotella had encouraged her, and that the experiments evolved out of a book of magic and optical illusions she had seen in the library.
Phemsint brought her experiments closer to home as she tried to determine the validity of the old saying: "Laughter is the best medicine."
After borrowing a devise to test blood pressure from the school nurse, she began to test her theory, particularly on her own parents, subjecting them to television comedy to see if this would lower blood pressure.
"I found it lowered it pretty significantly," she said. "In a female, blood pressure lowered a lot. In a male, a little less."
Rotella and Principal Pat Cocucci said these students had done well over the year, both exceeding in the school science fair held in later February, and again in March when the county held its fair at Liberty Science Center. "We're very proud of them," Cocucci said. "I think they will do very well when they move up to Middle School."
Saving the world's wildlife
Brittany MacFarlane, Alexia Corcoran and Kelly Buckel, second graders at Huber Street School, are continuing to raise money for the World Wildlife Fund as part of a program called Pennies for the Planet. In 1996, kids around the world collected enough pennies to protect 710,000 acres of tropical rain forest in Asia and Central America. In 1997, kids collected pennies while learning about the importance of migratory songbirds. They raised money to protect the wintering habitats of songbirds in Mexico, Central America, and South America.
In 1999, kids around the world collected more than 4.7 million pennies to help conservation in three eco-regions. They raised money to conduct a survey of endangered bonobos in the Congo Basin, to conserve giant panda habitats in China, and to promote environmental education in Russia and Alaska.
"I want to help save animals," Buckel said. Corcoran wants to help save the rain forests.
"We set up some jars and people put pennies in them," said MacFarlane.
The kids left the jars around their school - in the office, library and auditorium. The adventure is winding down as the last days of school draw nigh.