Kenilworth student’s soil project bound for Kenya

Jalen Scott’s 2013 science fair project has already gotten him published in an academic journal and allowed him to meet national educational and political leaders. Now, it’s taking him to Africa.

Scott’s project examining elevated levels of lead in soil at some Baton Rouge schools is the only entry from the U.S. accepted to the Golden Climate International Environmental Project Olympiad set for April 29-May 2 in Nairobi, Kenya. The eighth-grader at Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School is one of 135 entrants from 31 countries.

Kenilworth science teacher Elkhan Akhundov entered Scott’s project, which will compete against 24 other entrants from junior-high students.

Scott said his display will include a PowerPoint presentation for a panel of judges.

“I have to put up my A-game,” Scott said. “I have to focus on my project.”

As a seventh-grader, Scott and Desirae Gardner, then a sixth-grader at Kenilworth, produced similar projects studying soil at 11 local schools, using a hand-held X-ray spectrometer provided by LSU associate professor David Weindorf, a soils specialist with the LSU AgCenter. Scott found lead levels above U.S. Environmental Protection Agency screening limits at four of the schools. Gardner found elevated levels of arsenic at seven schools.

Assisted by LSU graduate students, their work was ultimately published in the academic journal Soil Horizons. It was the first time middle school students were published in the journal, according to the publication. They also got to visit Washington, D.C., and meet U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Sen. Mary Landrieu and Rep. Bill Cassidy.

Scott’s father, Sherman, and Akhundov will attend the Olympiad with him. Entrants pay their own way. They’ll be gone about a week, part of which will coincide with spring break. While there, the Scotts plan to take a safari.

“It’s a big opportunity to explore somewhere I’ve never been before,” Jalen Scott said.