POSTED: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 6:00am
UPDATED: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 6:04am
BATON ROUGE, LA — Two Baton Rouge middle school students' projects that started out as part of a science fair now have been published in a national scientific journal.
Desirae Gardner and Jalen Scott of Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School worked with LSU Agricultural Center Associate Professor David Weindorf on projects that measured the level of potentially dangerous metals on public school grounds in East Baton Rouge Parish. On Monday, Soil Horizons, a publication of Soil Science Society of America, published the results of the projects in two articles entitled, "Presence of Chromium, Copper, and Arsenic in Schoolyard Soils" and "Lead Contamination in Schoolyard Soils." The students and Weindorf were credited with co-authorship of the articles.
Desirae's research and article examined how potentially dangerous chemicals have leached into playground soils from wood that has been treated with preservatives. Eleven public school playground soil samples in East Baton Rouge Parish were randomly tested, and seven showed levels of arsenic that exceed the screening limit set by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. Jalen's research focused on levels of lead found in the soil under windows that had been painted with lead paint and near lead pipes. In four of the 11 schools tested, the lead levels were above the DEQ limit.
Caroline Schneider, a science writer and media relations coordinator for Soil Science Society of America's publications, described Soil Horizons as a scholarly journal that publishes research and peer-reviewed papers. She said the editor believes this is the first time middle school students have been published in Soil Horizons.
Each of the projects advanced to the regional science fair held at LSU last month, and Desirae's project won first place in its division, advancing to the state science fair. Jalen's entry took second place in the regional science fair.
Dr. Weindorf, an expert in soil studies, provided lab space, technical assistance and the use of a portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometer. He was asked by Elkhan Akhundov, a Kenilworth science teacher, to work with the students on a joint project to expose the students to university research methods and facilities.
"I am proud of the work Desirae and Jalen have done; they have a bright future ahead of them," Dr. Weindorf said. "It's good that Kenilworth is taking the extra step with these students to get them interested in science. We need more good students to go into scientific fields."
Sandra Purcell, a member of Kenilworth's school board, agreed.
"STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is Kenilworth's focus, and we believe this is at the heart of the school's success. I join the entire school board in congratulating Desirae, Jalen and their parents and for a job well done."