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10th annual Tomato Fest held at Morris Area Elementary

The 2010 Champions of the Tomato Fest games are parents Paul Grove and Ray Bowman. They are pictured receiving a trophy from Morris Area fifth grade science teacher Ken Gagner. Photo by Nancy Woodke, Sun Tribune.

The 10th annual Tomato Fest was Feb. 10 at Morris Area Elementary School. Tomato Fest gives fifth grade students an opportunity to share information from some of the experiments they have been conducting in science class.

Tomato Fest is based on experiments fifth graders conducted with scientists at the West Central Research and Outreach Center, the USDA Soils Lab, Agricultural Education students from Morris Area High School, and in their own classroom. Topics included tomato seeds, cinnamon basil seeds, chickens, and more.

The tomato seeds were part of Tomatosphere, an educational outreach project reaching over 9,000 classrooms across Canada, the United States, and several other nations. Students examined how seeds exposed to a simulated Martian environment (-50 C., elevated UV rays, and low atmospheric pressure consisting of 95% carbon dioxide) would affect the germination, growth, and reproduction of the plants. The experiment was a blind study meaning the students did not know which seeds were exposed to the simulated conditions and which seeds were in the control group. The seeds were planted on Sept. 15, and data collection took place until Jan. 26.

The cinnamon basil seed project involved two sets of seeds. One set was flown aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour for 14 days in August of 2007, while the other set was kept on earth. Students are analyzing data for possible changes in growth and germination.

The chicken project was a two-week unit in which students studied how diet affected growth. Students raised fifty day-old chickens and analyzed weight gain, feed intake, and feed efficiency.

Students took measurements and wrote reports on all three projects.

Following the presentation, parents and faculty participated in the popular tomato toss game.