Carson City students take first steps toward science careers |

Carson City students take first steps toward science careers

Alice Good
Special to the Nevada Appeal
Teri Spraggins/Special to the Nevada Appeal Mark Twain Elementary School student Christian Senda pours a red solution into one soil soaker to compare water drainage with the hydrogels, with student Cindy Cardenas in the background. Cooperative Extension instructor Jim Barcellos supervised the project as part of 4-H National Science Day.

Christian Senda, 12, is eager to show people how they can conserve water in their potted plants through the use of superabsorbent polymers called hydrogels.

“I think the hydrogels would help my mom keep her plants alive,” said the Mark Twain Elementary School student. “My friends and I are also excited to learn if the hydrogels could be used on disasters such as gasoline spills or maybe oil slicks.”

Christian, together with Mark Twain students Jose Sepulveda and Cindy Cardenas, celebrated the first 4-H National Youth Science Day by demonstrating water conservation experiments Wednesday at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office on Northgate Lane.

The Carson City youth joined with other teens who conducted experiments in Reno and Las Vegas, as well as thousands of other sites throughout the country.

“These youth attend our Tuesday afternoon after-school science club,” said Jim Barcellos, a Cooperative Extension instructor along with Leticia Servin. “These same youth, in turn, will teach the experiments to their fellow after-school students next week.”

The youth demonstrated how well hydrogel polymers (long molecule chains that grab onto water molecules) absorb water.

First they demonstrated using a disposable diaper then using potting soil in an experimental soaker.

A discussion followed about the effectiveness of this technology in environmental conditions, such as indoor and outdoor gardening.

“Even though the youth practiced the national 4-H lesson, they were still amazed by the ‘sucking’ power of the hydrogels, and they easily understood the water-saving powers the gels could have here in the Nevada desert,” said Sue Donaldson, Cooperative Extension water quality education specialist.

“These experiments are good opportunities for youth of all ages to get excited about science, technology, engineering and math, and particularly careers in these fields,” said Karen Hinton, Cooperative Extension dean and director, a longtime Carson City resident.

This national science initiative – an activity of National 4-H Week this week – hopes to inspire the 6 million 4-H members to explore scientific careers, and in turn, make a difference in their communities.

House Resolution 1390, passed Sept. 22, recognizes 4-H National Youth Science Day because “the need for science education, especially outside the classroom, is crucial to our country’s ability to remain globally competitive.”

For more information on 4-H youth activities and education, contact Barcellos at 887-2252, e-mail, or visit