April 20, 2011
CLERMONT — A mandatory class assignment for the Lake County regional science fair led Michaela McLean, an eighth-grader at Windy Hill Middle School, to recently win first place in the fair’s environmental science division.
Her project bested nearly 150 others submitted by middle-schoolers across the county.
“A Comparison of Organic and Synthetic Fertilizers and Their Nitrogen-Leaching Effect on the Florida Aquifer” netted Michaela, 13, a $50 savings bond from area business Brown and Caldwell and $100 from the Lake Soil and Water Conservation District as the overall county winner.
Michaela’s project “hit close to home,” said her mother, Annie McLean. Michaela’s father, Ben McLean III; her grandfather, Benny McLean Jr.; and her uncle Matt McLean work in the citrus industry and “hold a passion for farming sustainably and responsibly.” Matt McLean founded Uncle Matt’s Organic, a Clermont business, in 1999.
“Michaela comes from a Florida citrus-growing family dating back five generations,” her mother said.
Michaela’s project confirmed that when nitrogen rates were equal, organic fertilizer sources would leach much less nitrogen than their synthetic counterparts. Her findings have applications for environmental and human health, the purity of the Floridan aquifer and the state’s drinking-water supply.
“I am very happy about winning and feel a sense of accomplishment,” Michaela said. “The project took a lot of hard work and I am glad to see that it paid off.”
She chose her topic “because my family has a passion for growing citrus, especially organic,” said Michaela, who is in Windy Hill’s drama program and also has been a competitive dancer for the past seven years with Shooting Stars School of Performing Arts in Clermont.
Source: Copyright © 2011, Orlando Sentinel