Caustics and mold capture young minds

January 22, 2003 12:00 am

By CLAIRE ST. JOHN

Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders of Curtis Creek Elementary School seem to have similar scientific quandaries on their minds this year.

At the school's science fair Tuesday, a number of kids displayed findings after carefully observing mold forming on bread, cheese and juice.

Many others listed results after dousing plants with bleach, soda, vinegar and coffee.

Taking ideas from world news to the family garden, science students answered questions that, in come cases, had been on their minds since the beginning of school.

"I've kind of been brainstorming all year," said eighth-grader Garrick Chaffee, standing by his science fair project, "Red vs. Blue: Which detergent is more effective?"

Science projects filled half the campus gym, row after row of questions and answers, well-displayed and documented. Browsing the aisles revealed some interesting finds.

Eighth-graders Doug Diehl and Adam Jorge's hypothesis read, "We think that we will need Martha Stewart on standby because we feel not even the best plant doctor will be able to save these plants."

The two were studying the effects of different caustics on rye grass seedlings. A picture shows little patches of grass in different stages of distress.

Perhaps responding to the recent oil spill off the coast of Spain, sixth-grader Josh Davis asked, "How do you clean oil spills?"

His project describes how he used diesel gasoline, a shallow pan and the close supervision of his father. Davis tried to light the water on fire, burning the oil away. When that didn't work, he dropped a rag in his makeshift sea, and pictures show a fire flaming away.

But Davis found that soaking the oil up with cotton balls or a kitchen paper towel seemed to be the most effective method of removing oil.