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Stephanie Fontenot
GISD Director of Communications and Marketing

Sable Clift, a sixth grader at Austin Middle School, made Galveston ISD history recently when she brought home first place in the Texas Science and Engineering Fair at Texas A&M University in College Station in the earth and environmental sciences category. 

“Sable is the first middle school student to do this in district history,” GISD Superintendent Dr. Jerry Gibson said.

The last time a student represented GISD at the state science fair was in 2017, and that was a Ball High School student.

Clift was recognized for her achievements by Dr. Gibson and GISD’s Board of Trustees during the district’s recent board meeting.

To get to the state competition, Clift had to win first at district and then first at regionals where she competed against sixth, seventh, and eighth graders in her category with her project, “Banana Pads,” an eco-friendly solution to the absorption material within feminine hygiene products.  

“Sable’s performance was indeed outstanding at the Texas State Science Fair, GISD’s District Science K-12 Coordinator Dr. Jean Langevine said. “Most of the Categories had on average 15 to 20 competitors for only one blue ribbon which Sable received for her category. There are no second or third places at the state level.” 

“In addition to Sable receiving her blue ribbon award, she was also selected as a national nominee for the 2023 Thermo Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge, a program of Society for Science,” Langevine added. “I will be working with Sable as she prepares for this national competition. Thermo Fisher JIC is the nation’s premier STEM research competition for middle school students. Only the top 10 percent of sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade students competing at Society-affiliated fairs each year are nominated to enter – this is an amazing achievement for Sable!” 

Early in the school year, Clift started her project along with more than 300 other middle school students from Austin and Central Middle Schools in preparation for GISD’s All-District Science Fair in January. This was another historic event as it was the largest district fair ever held.  

“After the pandemic, like everyone, we were slow to get our in-person science fair program up and running again,” Cathy Nall said, GISD’s district science fair coordinator and advanced science teacher at Austin. “This year we considered this to be our second annual fair and with the help of many folks at GISD and our local and community partners, we made it the largest in district history.” 

“A science fair is much more than a competition of projects,” Nall said. “It is a way for students to learn to think critically about a subject or phenomena that interests them. The science fair takes in all the disciplines, such as running data, writing, creating bibliographies, abstract writing, design and layout, hypothesis, and problem solving, and most importantly, success, responsibility, and even failure. One can still learn from a failed hypothesis," Nall added.

After GISD held its competition in January, 54 students were selected to compete at the regional level at the Science and Engineering Fair of Houston in February. Again, GISD broke a historical record by bringing more students to regionals than any other year. Additionally, Nall received the Science and Engineering Fair of Houston's Teacher of the Year Junior Division award for her efforts.  

“Now that GISD has rearranged the middle schools and we have the sixth grade on one campus, we can focus on the science fair with this age group, create a long-term love of science and hopefully bring back some of the spark in our learning processes,” added Nall.