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CCHS graduate advances to FFA Nationals

From Staff Reports

Chilton County High School 2020 graduate Amanda Sparks has advanced to the National level of the FFA Agriscience Fair with her “Growing Beyond Earth” project.

The project “Growing Beyond Earth” is a partnership between Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and NASA.

As a part of the project in her advanced agriscience class, Sparks was assigned testing edible plant cultivars to assist scientists at NASA. The data she collected would help determine which plants would be considered for growth in future space missions. She used a controlled mini-greenhouse to germinate butter crunch, butter head and red romaine varieties of lettuce, keeping detailed records of germination, watering, growth rate and leaf harvest. She shared this information with Fairchild Tropical garden on a weekly basis and was also required to participate in scheduled webinars throughout the process.

“She has always been a very studious, self-motivated, hands-on student in her agriscience classes,” CCHS agriscience teacher Marlon Harton said.

After completing her research, Sparks submitted her results to the state agriscience fair in May and was notified recently that her entry will be submitted for National Judging in August.

“We hope that her entry will do well at FFA Nationals and that her research will help NASA provide bountiful quantities of nutritious food for our space travelers,” Harton said.

Sparks will begin her post high school studies at Princeton University this fall.

Harton said agriscience/FFA was very appreciative of events and competitions, such as the State/National FFA Agriscience Fair being made available to students in new ways to avoid canceling due to COVID-19.

The agriscience fair is for middle and high school students. Students use scientific principles and emerging technologies to solve complex problems related to agriculture, food, and natural resources. Participation begins at the local level and progresses to state and national levels.  While attending the FFA National Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana in October 2019, Harton was given information about the “Growing Beyond Earth” plant research project.  He was later contacted and from there, all equipment and materials were received at the school.  As a result, this school year, Chilton County High School Agriscience classes were able to conduct the experiment sponsored by NASA.