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Published: Wednesday, 3/10/2010

Rain forest project at Perrysburg school sprouts roots of knowledge

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Leah Mattas, 9, a fourth grader at Fort Meigs Elementary, takes notes about the growth of one of the more than 200 plants that are part of the rain forest project. Leah Mattas, 9, a fourth grader at Fort Meigs Elementary, takes notes about the growth of one of the more than 200 plants that are part of the rain forest project.
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Take a deep breath when you walk into Deb Roberts' classroom at Fort Meigs Elementary School.

"It's extreme," Mrs. Roberts said of the heightened oxygen level. "People walk in and feel the difference."

For two months, fourth-grade science students at the Perrysburg elementary have been growing plants from seeds and potting them when they get big enough. They've also brought in mature plants from home that now fill the classroom-turned-rain forest.

With more than 200 plants and seedlings, it's a very green room.

"This is an example of hydroponics," fourth-grader Lucas Rickman said.

He presented a small plastic cup with a sprouting bush bean in water. He's had the best luck with bush beans.

"My lima bean keeps on dying," Lucas said.

Madi Schaefer was holding a once-healthy Christmas cactus that developed some limp leaves.

"Someone overwatered it," she said. "I have a little cactus at home, and he's fine."

Starting with a reading project on Lynn Cherry's The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest, the students began talking about the value of plants and trees about two months ago. They learned the parts of plants and the importance of trees and plants with lots of hands-on experience.

Drew Swerlein said that as keepers of the plants, he and his classmates have to make sure the plants are watered enough, but not too much, and that they're in the sun if they like the sun. Too much or too little of one or the other can cause turgor pressure, he said, and ultimately kill the plant.

"Turgor pressure is actually when a plant does not get enough sun or it gets too much or if it gets too much water or not enough, and it dies," Daman Singh said.

Daman had a withered-looking bush bean start that he suspects didn't get enough water.

"We're still checking it," he said. "It might live."

Adam Ponzio, who said he has experience growing tomatoes and sunflowers with his grandmother, presented a plant he'd grown from seed that he deemed perfect.

It had healthy green leaves, two buds where new leaves were growing, "and root hairs all over its body," Adam said.

Teryn Lipper said she knows just how to tell if a plant is being watered properly.

"When the soil is damp and dark and it sticks to your fingers, that means it doesn't need water," she said.

Teryn is growing a lima bean plant, though she confessed she doesn't care to eat lima beans.

"Not so much," she said. "It's just interesting to grow one."

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.



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