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Member Mention: NWPE Educator Mentors Young Student to Science Superstardom
posted by: Alix | June 17, 2011, 07:51 PM   

Ms. Kira Powell, a rising senior at Odessa High School in Washington recently won first place in her regional, state, and later national science fair. This past May, she competed in an international competition, where she also received first place for independent research and a "best of" award in Plant Sciences. In July, she will compete in the international competition in London.

Under the guidance of Mr. Jeff Wehr, a science teacher and Northwest Professional Educators member (an AAE affiliate), Kira's award winning project involved experimenting with a new way to absorb rainfall near the roots of wheat crops. Drawing an unlikely conclusion between a polymer in diapers and soil, Kira used the polymer known as sodium polyacrylate in a three test plots – one with no polymer, one with a 2.5 percent concentration, and one with a 5 percent concentration. She discovered the plot with 2.5 percent produced a 22 percent higher crop yield and the plot with 5 percent produced 27 percent higher crop yield.

Although science educator Mr. Wehr modestly deflects publicity away from himself, there is no doubt his inspiring teaching has greatly influenced Kira, as well as the other students at their high school. Mr. Wehr uses a hands-on approach to science, teaching students facts and their real world application. "There's no volcanoes made with baking powder," said Mr. Wehr. "It has to affect the community, the state, the nation or the globe." While several students from his program have produced successful experiments in national competitions, Kira is the first to compete in these highly publicized international symposiums.

In regards to Kira, Mr. Wehr praises her ability, saying, "Kira has many qualities that contribute to her success, but a few that stand above the rest are modesty and expectations. Where a lot of students try to achieve at the level the educator may set, Kira exceeds her own expectations as she sets the bar. Kira has what I call the astronaut quality."

Mr. Wehr's reputation as an inspiring and practical teacher, along with the accolades of several others students and Kira's success, have earned Odessa High School international recognition as a place of innovative and practical science education. Congratulations to Mr. Wehr and Kira! Keep up the fantastic work.

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