- Associated Press - Sunday, May 29, 2016

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) - Instead of joining the rest of their classmates and giving their earthworms a mixture of caffeine powder and water to see how it affected the worms, fifth-graders Kathryn Tillis and Madeline Vought got a little creative and gave their earthworm a sip of Coke, then waited for it to react.

“We decided to use a Coke instead of the water mixture during our experiment to find out how caffeine affects earthworms,” Kathryn said. “And our hypothesis is the earthworm will survive.”

Tillis and Borders were among the about 70 Burruss Elementary students who spent Thursday conducting biology experiments at Marietta High School under the watchful eyes of their teachers for the day - a group of 10th grade biology students.

Thursday’s biology lab experiments were part of a joint learning project between Teresa Green’s fifth grade general science classes at Burruss Elementary and Celis Hartley-Lewis’ 10th grade Honors Biology classes at Marietta High School.

“In the fall, my 10th-grade biology students conducted lab experiments with fifth-graders from A.L. Burruss Elementary,” Hartley-Lewis said. “The 10th-graders designed the experiments and the fifth-graders did the experiments that my students designed. Since then, the teachers at Burruss have helped the fifth-graders design their own lab experiments using the same materials we used in the fall. Today, the fifth-graders are coming back with their own designs and the 10th-graders will act as their teachers or facilitators.”

Sophomores Austin Cryer and Chaz Warren, who subbed as teachers for fifth-graders Andy Macharia and Julian Bernardino, had to help the younger students redesign their experiment.

“Do earthworms like apples?” Macharia asked. “That’s the question we want to answer.”

“We don’t have any apples,” Cryer explained. “But what we can do is test to see how earthworms react to the different substances.”

“Do you have any other kind of fruit?” Bernardino asked.

“No,” Cryer responded. “But we do have water, vinegar, alcohol and caffeine.”

The two fifth-graders seemed a bit disappointed until Cryer and Warren got them started on the revamped experiment.

Green said the project has increased her fifth-graders’ understanding of biology, organisms and the scientific method.

“We came in the fall when her class designed the experiments and the fifth-graders got a chance to see the process,” Green said. “Over the course of the year, we’ve worked on the scientific method in our science classes. When it was time to return, Ms. Hartley sent us a list of material and the students used these items to design their own experiments, which they are conducting today. This is also a way to make what they’re learning in class come alive.”

Julia Kiklica, a Marietta High School sophomore, said the fifth-graders she worked with, Jessica Harper and Madeline Borders, named their earthworm Sasha and used a wet and dry paper towel to determine if earthworms preferred wet or dry places.

“I thought dry because that’s what they’re used to,” Jessica predicted.

“I thought wet because they feel wet,” Madeline said.

After the experiment, Jessica announced their findings. “We put her on dry and wet paper towels and she stayed on the dry paper towels longer,” she said.

The day was divided into two sessions. Part of the fifth-graders conducted their experiments before lunch, while others joined the high school students in the lab after lunch.

Hartley-Lewis said the project between the two schools was initiated when Green asked about doing a joint project between the science classes. The two came up with the idea for the lab project, which Hartley-Lewis said has been a learning experience for both groups of students.

“In the fall, my students learned whether or not their designs were good by watching the younger students respond to the experiments,” Hartley-Lewis said. “This time, I’m hoping my students will learn to evaluate and assess good lab designs. I’m hoping the fifth-graders learned how labs were conducted in the fall, and now we want to see if they can apply the knowledge they learned in the fall.”

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Information from: Marietta Daily Journal, https://mdjonline.com/

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