Claire Dworsky, a fourth-grade student at Katherine Delmar Burke School, overheard adults debating the idea of converting a large area of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park from grass to artificial turf and whether the plastic turf was healthy for the kids. Dworsky, an avid soccer player since she was age 3, wondered what was in the water she and her teammates were playing around in.
She decided to find out and took the issue on as a science project. Her project won the 2009 Kids Science Challenge, a national competition in which third- through sixth-graders submit experiments and problems for a group of scientists and engineers to solve.
Winning the challenge led to Claire partnering with marine scientist Adina Paltan, a professor at University of California, Santa Cruz's Institute of Marine Sciences. Paltan worked with the inquisitive, young girl, teaching her how to collect and test water samples.
Dworsky collected 110 water samples from 10 soccer fields across San Francisco, half of them with grass and half with artificial turf. She then took the samples to Paltan's UC Santa Cruz lab, where scientists analyzed them over the course of that summer. Before then, no such testing was ever done on the water from the different fields.
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