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English Detective #100 2-20-18 Teen Scientists Meet Big Challenges
February 20, 2018

Young scientists continue to show that the scientific method works to produce solutions to major problems. This issue looks at three who have looked for answers to big challenges: detecting lead in drinking water, capturing and removing CO2 from industrial emissions, and helping farmers cope with drought—the extreme water shortages that can accompany climate change.

The first (and only long) article discusses how 11-year-old Gitanjali Rao followed the scientific method to find a cheaper, more reliable way to detect lead in drinking water. The Newsela article is available at several different reading levels. (I’ve linked to the 12th-grade level, but it’s easy to choose a lower level at the beginning of the article.)

Ethan Novek, 18, is developing a new process that is much less expensive than the current ways to remove CO2 from factory exhaust—and even use it to produce useful chemicals.

Finally, Kiara Nirghin, a South African student, has found a way to help the drought-stricken farmers of her country keep water in the soil. She used agricultural and waste products—orange peels and avocados—to develop an inexpensive polymer that can absorb and retain water.

All three students are working to make their solutions available commercially as soon as possible.

Vocabulary Explanations & Practice

The best place to practice much of the vocabulary in these readings is the matching exercise toward the bottom of the Climate Change & Weather Vocabulary page on English Hints.

A couple more explanations:

Absorbent means able to absorb (take in) and hold a large amount of liquid.

A chemical reaction is an interaction between chemicals that causes changes and produces something new.

To detect is to find evidence of the presence of a substance.

A device is a mechanical or electronic instrument with a specific function (designed to do one thing).

Next issue: More health breakthroughs because of asking good questions (including some research questions being worked on by 18-19 year-old undergrads.)

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