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Richards students study pollutants

The students could have guessed that motor oil, SCHOOL-PAGE-RICHARDS-hlrES15studentsB1Richards High School freshman Lucas Sekulski measures the amount of motor oil his lab group will place in soil to test its effect on radishes. Submitted photo.insect repellent, and rubbing alcohol would adversely affect plant life. But scientists don’t guess.
So the freshmen from Richards High School meticulously recorded how each pollutant affected their radish plants.
They monitored the effects by inputting and analyzing data with Microsoft Excel. They took photos to visually track the deterioration of the radishes.
And finally they wrote a lab report with their findings and a sequence of photos that illustrated how the pollutants damaged the plants.
“This lab follows the next generation science standards because it is student-generated. They told me what they wanted to test and did the lab themselves,” said teacher Sheri Caine.
Parents volunteered more than 600 freshmen – a record – to participate in Early Start this summer in District 218. The three-week program helps students adapt to high school with classes in English, math, and science.
Many Early Start teachers incorporate activities, such as the radish experiment, that the time constraints of the regular school year don’t allow.
“Early Start is a great program for multiple reasons. First, kids learn skills that they’ll use during the year. For science, they’re getting a head start in experimental design, some concepts in biology, using microscopes, and Microsoft Excel and Word,” said Caine.
Early Start also provides an orientation to high school life.
“They’re learning about Richards by touring the school, meeting staff, making friends, and learning the expectations of high school-level work. They’re also learning interpersonal skills during their homeroom such as active listening and body language,” she added.
The science portion of Early Start included a biodiversity survey.
“We started off with a nature walk down by the creek behind Richards. They got a tour while learning to critically examine an area,” Caine said.
Students looked for signs of animals along Wolfe Wildlife Refuge.
“This led to the discussion on why biodiversity is necessary for life. The pollutant lab is their final project where they are demonstrating everything they’ve learned in the past few weeks,” she said.
--District 218