Byram Hills High School senior Edith Bachmann won a third place award at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair for her behavioral science research project, which studied the cognitive benefits of students sharing stories with each other.
Edith compared pairs of fourth grade students who practiced storytelling, the act of retelling a story from memory while maintaining eye contact, with pairs that practiced story reading, or reading from a picture book and showing the pictures as visual aids.
Her research found that each form of story sharing helped executive function and language skills in different ways.
Storytelling showed more improvement in reading comprehension and auditory sustained attention while story reading showed more benefits to working memory, visual sustained attention and vocabulary. The results show the need for both story reading and the less common peer-to-peer storytelling to help children’s development, Edith explained.
“I hope that both activities will be given a place in the classroom and at home, since they are both easily accessible and low-cost,” Edith said. “It is through these kinds of interventions that we will be able to help all students.”
She was gratified by her ISEF award, which came with a $1,000 prize.
“It’s such a great honor and I’m beyond excited,” said Edith, who plans to major in English at Wellesley College. “I’m very proud of the work I’ve done and I’m really grateful to all of the teachers and friends who have helped me along the way.”
She plans to conduct a new phase of her study this summer and possibly continue it next year.
“Edith’s project was just extraordinary and I’m incredibly proud of her,” said Dr. Caroline Matthew, a Byram Hills teacher in the Authentic Science Research Program. “Her research represents the importance of finding ways to improve education for our youngest children in accessible and meaningful ways. I couldn’t be more pleased that she created such a great project and found good results.”
Edith and Byram Hills seniors Jack Blackmar and Gabriella Colabello competed at Regeneron ISEF, which was held in Atlanta, Georgia, from May 7 to 13 and involved 1,750 students from 63 countries.
The three Byram Hills seniors qualified to compete at ISEF by finishing in the top 20 at the Regeneron Westchester Science and Engineering Fair in March.