June 16, 2000

Sweetwater District Student is California's Science Fair Student of the Year; Two Others Earn State Science Honors

Arietta Fleming-Davies, a Sweetwater district student who has participated in science fairs for the last five years, is this year's California Science Fair Student of the Year.

Arietta, a graduating Bonita Vista High School senior, won first place in California for her study of the genetics of native San Diego orchids. By extracting DNA from cells in the leaves of the plants, Arietta discovered extensive genetic variations-meaning the orchids were reproducing through pollination rather than through the vegetative process of sending off shoots.

State Honors: The Bonita Vista High School marquee touts senior Arietta Fleming-Davies’ to the entire community.

In addition to her first-place science fair award, Arietta became the state Science Fair Student of the Year by filling out an application and writing an award-winning essay.

"She's been working for this her whole high school career," said Dr. Neal Biggart, Arietta's science teacher and fair advisor. "Students work for an entire year on their projects. This is a major commitment."

Another one of Biggart's students at Bonita Vista High-senior Stephanie Hancock-took a fourth-place award at the state science fair for her study of fruit flies' resistance to insecticides. In her project, Stephanie used the common insecticide RAID and found that fruit flies became immune to the chemicals by the seventh generation.

Sweetwater students' state honors were not restricted to Bonita Vista High. SAILS first student to ever enter a science fair-7th grader Mitchael Evaristo, Jr.-also took a fourth place award at the state fair held in Los Angeles last month.

A Bug’s Life: Mitchael Evaristo, Jr. displays his science fair project and awards. Mitchael is a seventh grader at the Sweetwater Academy for Individual Learning Styles (SAILS).

Mitchael studied the taste sensitivities of the common housefly by creating concentrations of different sugars and finding which form the flies preferred. With a special camera equipped with a magnifying lens, Mitchael videotaped the flies' actions and recorded the number of times they licked each concentration. Of the five concentrations, Mitchael found that they liked fructose, sucrose and Nutrasweet best.

Mitchael's accomplishments have made the entire Sweetwater Academy for Individual Learning Styles (SAILS) campus proud.

"Mitchael's parents, friends and school staff were confident and delighted in his budding scientific achievement," said SAILS Principal Dr. Sally Bottroff-Hawes. "SAILS provides all students many opportunities for hands-on learning. We are very proud of Mitchael's terrific science fair project."

Entering science fairs is a wonderful learning experience, said Board President Greg Sandoval.

"These great young people are showing students in the Sweetwater district that science can be fun, even when it's hard work," Sandoval said. "Students are finding out that their curiosity can lead to new discoveries and that they can expand their learning in the directions they choose."

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