Young Scientists at Pearl City High Study Alternatives to Chemical Fertilizers

Christianne Izumigawa and Lennie Alinsunurin making vermicast tea at PCHS Library.

Christianne Izumigawa and Lennie Alinsunurin making vermicast tea at PCHS Library.

Is vermicast a viable alternative to chemical fertilizers for turf grass growth and development? This is what two Pearl City High School (PCHS) Senior Project students are researching, along with two PCHS 11th graders interested in science as a career. The students are Layla Fidel, Lennie Alinsunurin, Christianne Izumigawa, and Marissa Kuwabara. They are working under the guidance of Dr. Theodore Radovich from the UH Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Science, and Mindy Jaffe, owner of Waikiki Worm Company at the Pearl City Urban Garden Center. Eight different species of turf grass in 3’ by 10’ plots are being tested.


Layla Fidel and Lennie Alinsunurin watering the turf plots; Christianne Izumigawa and Marissa Kuwabara measuring the chlorophyll content at the Pearl City Urban Garden Center.

Layla Fidel and Lennie Alinsunurin watering the turf plots; Christianne Izumigawa and Marissa Kuwabara measuring the chlorophyll content at the Pearl City Urban Garden Center.

The students are definitely meeting their learning goals of doing hands on work with a “real” scientist, in a “real” science research lab setting, using authentic science equipment and tools to analyze their data.. The icing on the cake is the opportunity to present their research findings with the scientific community at Mindy Jaffe’s turf conference in February 2013! Leaders from various city and state agencies, officials from the HIDOE Department of Education, as well as guests from mainland institutions will attend this conference. What’s more, this project is contributing to PCHS’s sustainability efforts because the school’s vermicast-producing worms are being fed waste from the school’s cafeteria by PCHS’s Special Education students and teachers — a win-win situation for all involved!

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