Maria's Big Experiment by Shirlee Newman

Maria Gomez filled her watering can in the hall and tiptoed into the science workroom, trying to keep her sneakers from squeaking on the tiled floor. “Everyone in the Science Club must have gone home already,” She thought. But as her gaze traveled to the far corner, she saw Diane Painter’s blond head bent over an experiment. The other girl raised her head and smiled. “Hi, Maria,” she said, “How’s your experiment coming?”

“All right, thanks. S-sorry I disturbed you,” Maria stammed.

“Oh, not at all!” Diane grinned, as Maria watered her geraniums. One plant had been given all the elements needed for growth- sun, water, nourishment, and air. Maria then withheld one of these elements from each of the others plants. The experiment was working out all right, she thought, adjusting her little signs. But how could a simple study of what plants need for growth compare to Diane’s complicated experiment in hydroponics growing things in chemicals, rather than in soil?

Maria’s thoughts were interrupted by the laughing of three girls as they bounded into the room. They rushed over to Diane.

“How’s the experiment for the science fair, Diane?” Sandy Webber bubbled. “Ready to captures honors for Public School 17? Maria kept her eyes glued on her plants. One of the other girls laughed and said, ‘Who needs to ask? Look at it! You’re a cinch to win again this year, Diane!”

“And she’s worked long enough today,” Sandy chirped. “Let’s go down to the Malt Shop.” Maria kept her head bent over her plants until Diane’s voice piped up. “Want to come along, Maria?

Maria’s cheek burned. She only asked me to be polite, she thought, “I guess I’ll work a little longer,” she said softly. “See you tomorrow ,then.”

Maria tried to shut out the sound of their gay voices as they jabbered all the way down the hall. Diane’s so popular, she thought wistfully. It’s because she does everything so well. If only I could win first prize in the science fair, then maybe… She walked over to Diane’s plants. “But how could I possibly win?” she said aloud. “This is so much better than my measly little experiment.” Maria thought as she examined the roots dangling in the liquid. I haven’t got a chance. If only I could think of an idea to makemy experiment more-more exciting! Well, no use dreaming, she thought, gathering up her books. I might as well go home. Next day as Maria entered the science workroom, her mind was in a jumble. She had not come up with an idea that would make her experiment more exciting. Diane Painter joined her at workable. “Sorry you couldn’t come with us yesterday,” she said bending over Maria’s plants.”Say, this is working out fine. The plant without sun hasn’t bloomed; the one without water looks wilted… She’s just being nice,Maria thought. It doesn’t hold a candle to her experiment. “Maria,” Diane said thoughtfully.”Have you ever thought what would happen to a plant if you withheld sun from just a few of the buds? Would the buds bloom or would they die?”

Maria felt bewildered. “I don’t know,….”

“Oh gosh!” Diane looked at her watch. “I’ve got to go. See you tomorrow!”

Wonder what she was getting at, Maria thought. Keep sun away from some of the buds? How could I do that? As she looked around the room, the supply shelf caught her eye. “With paper of course!” she exclaimed. “Small paper bags would do it!”

A dozen questions formed in her mind. Does the sun affect each bud on a plant separately, or does it affect the plant as a whole? Would the higher temperature inside the bags make any difference in the growth of the buds? This was the idea she needed to make her experiment more execiting! She would stop at the grocery store and get some bags on the way home.

During the next few weeks, every time she saw Diane, Maria felt a faint gnawing feeling in the back of her mind, as if she’d forgotten something.

Maria looked at Diane’s smiling face. Maria Gomez, she said silently,you are a dope. Diane is popular not because she does things so well; she’s popular because she’s so nice-so friendly with everyone.

“Thanks, Diane,” Maria said, “But this time, it’s back to my house!”

“Back to your house, Maria? Good, let’s go!” Sandy Webber said. “To celebrate a new winner!”

And a new me, Maria added to herself, as the girls crowded around.

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