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FFA grant gives Liberty Ranch High School students research experience

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Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2013 12:00 am

Months before Liberty Ranch High School seniors threw their mortarboards into the air signaling the beginning of the rest of their lives, they were busy doing real-life research that could help them in a future career.

Thanks to a $2,000 National FFA grant that teacher Haley Clement applied for and received, students in her agriculture chemistry class received hands-on learning opportunities.

“I was looking for a funding source to help assist in the science fair projects my students do,” she said in an email.

But these aren’t simple science projects presented on a tri-fold posterboard.

In Clement’s classes, each student must design, implement and showcase an agriculture-related research project. These range anywhere from testing how different fertilizers affect plant growth to measuring vitamin C content in different fruit juices, she said.

“The objective of the project is to encourage students to use the skills and knowledge they learn in my agriculture chemistry class in a real and hands-on way,” she said.

Students are assigned the project in August, and the final research paper and display board are due in November. During those months, they learn how to set up an experiment, test it, use laboratory equipment, write a scientific research paper and use APA citation correctly.

This year’s projects focused on the environment.

But the learning didn’t stop there — 25 percent of the projects were actually put into practice. The students’ findings were presented last month to the Galt City Council and the Galt Joint Union High School District board of trustees.

Ronii Belton and Dillon Montgomery, who investigated ions in city’s effluent water that had been sent to the wastewater treatment plant, found no iron or other particles present, which means it can be used for irrigating crops.

Atikah Salim reviewed Galt’s tap water for pH, hardness, lead and chlorine to determine whether it was safe to drink (it is), while still others examined the effects of common pollutants on seed germination and tested fuel efficiency of homemade biofuel.

Clement explained that she wanted to make the school year’s project more meaningful, hence the reason she applied for the grant — to choose projects and carry out research that was related to the environment surrounding Galt.

“One goal was to select projects that could both inform the public about environmental issues as well as work with local agriculturists to run studies that would answer questions they have about their farm or ranch,” she said.

The teacher designed each of the projects based on discussions she had prior to the school year beginning with members of the public works offices in both Galt and Lodi, as well as the director of the Galt wastewater treatment plant.

“My goal was to choose projects that the public would like to know about while being agriculturally related,” Clement said. “Once I gave the students the idea, they further developed it.”

She has once again applied for the grant and hopes to further develop the project.

“I think it is very cool to see young students investigating real and relevant topics to both the community and the topics they study in my agriculture chemistry classes,” she said.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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