6th-grade science club 1st in state by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · April 12, 2013
A team of sixth-graders won first place in Iowa for their science project and earned one of four spots in the race for a regional prize in the annual eCybermission contest.
The Lead Tacklers team include Jayden Roth and Logan Norfleet of West Branch and Eric Doorn and Cole Sherman of North Liberty. Roth, Doorn and Sherman attend Heritage Christian School in North Liberty; Norfleet attends West Branch Middle School.
Each member of the team won $1,000 in U.S. Savings Bonds for the state win. If they win first in the regional competition, they collect another $2,000 per student in savings bonds and earn an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington D.C. to compete for the national award.
“I am excited and happy,” Roth said of the win. “We worked very hard on this project and I am happy to see it making an impact on the community. I hope that because we have won this award it will focus more attention on the problem.”
Sherman said he was “happy” with the state win and qualifying for the regional round.
“It was cool,” he said. “We have worked really hard and spent many hours, so I am happy.”
Their project looks at lead fishing tackle that falls off fishing lines and gets into waterways. They found that loons, which swallow pebbles to help digest food, may eat weights smaller than 1 ounce and die within a few weeks. With the help of the University of Iowa Hygienics laboratory, the team is also checking for lead in water samples from area creeks.
The Lead Tacklers work with Dr. Hector Ibarra, who taught science at WBMS for 30 years before retiring in 2010.
“The work we did paid off,” Norfleet said. “When you have Dr. Ibarra on your side, there’s a low chance you lose.”
(Full disclosure: Norfleet is a son of this reporter.)
Doorn said he hopes their project will help educate people about the dangers of lead “so the environment will be cleaner and safer.”
They also plan to pursue a bill in hopes of getting small lead tackle banned in Iowa. Roth and Norfleet made a presentation March 9 to state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann to get him acquainted with their findings.
The Lead Tackers collected more than 120 surveys at area lakes and sporting good stores, as well as schools, and found that many people are unaware of the dangers of lead in water. They passed out brochures encouraging people who fish to switch to non-lead sinkers.
In January, the team traveled to Des Moines and spoke to several legislators and Gov. Terry Branstad, who stopped by their booth.
Doorn said he is surprised by how many lead sinkers are produced in a year, suggesting they are being replaced when sinkers are dropped or thrown away.