WHILE MOST MIDDLE SCHOOL students doodle to past the time, seventh grader Jalen Scott’s favorite pastime took him to Africa.
As a student in Elkhan Akuhundov’s science class at Ken- ilworth Science and Tech- nology Charter School, Scott said it was when he looked at his pencil that he came up with the idea for a science fair project.
“Every year students have to pick a topic to study and present their findings at the science fair, I looked at my pencil and thought to myself, lead has to be found more places than just in pencils,” Scott said.
Upon joining the sci- ence, technology, engineering, and math program at Kenilworth, Scott decided his project for the science fair would examine elevated levels of lead in soil at Baton Rouge area schools.
He said he was able to meet with LSU graduate students and professors, who after helping him decide on what to study. also helped him set up experiments and gather data.
“It was fun working with the professors and I knew my project would be successful, because they know what they’re doing and they will share their expertise with you to make sure you know what you’re doing,” Scott said.
Scott’s project produced a study of soil at 11 schools in the Baton Rouge area.
“We used a PXF [Por- table X-ray Florescent] which is an instrument that when you place it in the soil, it tells you the com- pounds that make it up,” Scott said.
Scott found lead levels above U.S. Environmental Protection Agency screen- ing limits at four of the schools.
“The more involved I got in the project, the more I wanted to know and the more I wanted to know, the harder I worked to make this my best project yet,” Scott said.
Akundov said his stu- dents are very involved in their projects when it comes to performing experiments and gathering data while teachers mainly only serve as the liaison between the students and their mentors at the University.
“I’ve always been amazed by the interest he’s shown in science – I have always pushed his interest in anything that has to do with education,” said Sherman Scott, Jalen’s father.
He continued to say that last year he worked with his son on a science project that didn’t receive a high grade so he used that defeat to motivate him toward victory with this project.
“I learned along with my son, there were times I would look up words I didn’t know or look up ways to show my son how to explain something, I wanted him to see that it takes hard work to be the best,” he said.
In 2013 when the young Scott presented his project at the science fair,
his peers and teachers were not the only ones who took notice of the sixth grader’s research.
“I can definitely see a difference from when I first met him, two years ago, to now,” Akundov said. “Not just from an academic standpoint, but he is more confident, and the experiences he’s had will have an impact on the rest of his life and the way he views the world.”
Last year Scott’s work was published in the aca- demic journal Soil Hori- zons. This year Akundov entered the child’s work into the 2014 Golden Cli- mate International Envi- ronmental Project Olym- piad in Nairobi, Kenya.
“I entered the project because it was very successful, it was published, had community impact and extended way beyond a science fair and lead to him being recognized by Arnie Dunckan, U.S. Secretary of Education,” Akundov said.
Scott flew with his father and teacher to present his findings at the Olympiad where they stayed from April 29 to May 2. His findings were the only entry from the U.S. accepted to compete among 135 entrants from 31 countries.
Scott left the competition victorious taking home its highest honor, the Wangari Maathai Special Award.
After receiving so many accolades at such a young age, one would think Scott would want to pursue a science related career, but he said when he gets older he wants to be a graphic artist.
“It’s something I have always wanted to do, as soon as I go home I draw, as soon as I get in class I draw, as soon as I leave class I draw. I feel like it’s a calling I’ve had since I was little,” Scott said.
But his teacher believes he has already made an impact on the science industry.
“It makes me feel important as a teacher being able to help a student accomplish so much with just one project,” Akhundov said. “This proves to everyone that anything is possible if you work hard, put in effort and keep trying.”
By Cameron James
City News Manager