Curious about a lack of plant growth under her family’s evergreen trees, Manashree Padiyath of Woodbury decided that an experiment was in order.

Her resulting essay on the subject, “Greening Under the Evergreens: A Biochar Soil Amendment Study,” is now a national award-winner.

Padiyath, a seventh-grader at Math and Science Academy, a Woodbury charter school, is one of 12 students from across the country to capture a “young naturalist award” from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

More than 800 essays were submitted to the museum as part of a national science-based research competition for students in grades 7 through 12.

According to a museum news release, Padiyath wondered whether the fertility of the soil under the back-yard evergreens could be improved with the addition of biochar, which is biomass — wood, leaves or grasses — heated to the point of thermal decomposition.

She planted mung bean seeds in three trays filled with the soil, and added four varieties of biochar. Contrary to her hypothesis, the museum said, the additives did not yield any improvement in soil fertility.

The other seventh-grade winner wrote his essay about the respiratory rate of a brown bullhead catfish.

Padiyath and her fellow award winners will be flown to New York for an awards ceremony and luncheon on Friday, May 29. She will receive a cash award and a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum.

Last year, Padiyath was one of more than 200 students in the state to collect honors at the 77th annual Minnesota State Science and Engineering Fair.

She also organized a schoolbook drive in 2013-14 that led to hundreds of books being collected and shipped to students in Pakistan. Padiyath was inspired by a Pakistani girl who was shot and severely wounded by the Taliban in 2012 for advocating that girls go to school in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan.


Former teacher hired as principal

Jennifer Holt, who taught for three years in the South Washington County School District before leaving for Arizona about a decade ago, is returning to the district as the new principal of Red Rock Elementary School.

“I am thrilled to be joining the Red Rock Elementary family,” Holt said in a statement. “It is an honor to join a community committed to igniting a passion for learning.”

For the past 10 years, she has been a teacher and a principal in the Vail School District in Vail, Ariz.

Holt earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., and a master’s in education leadership from Northern Arizona University.

She will succeed Andrew Caflisch, who was tapped recently to be the next principal of Armstrong Elementary in Cottage Grove. He replaces Tom Berg, who is retiring.


BPA students nab leadership honors

Five students in Tartan High’s Business Professionals of America (BPA) program won recognition at a BPA national leadership conference in Anaheim, Calif.

Two students, Oceana Vang and XeeNyia Vang, wrote about the Tartan chapter’s community-service activities, which has included assisting with Red Cross blood drives and Pennies for Patients fund- raisers.

Tartan, in turn, was one of three schools in the country to be recognized for its “BPA Cares” community-service work.

XeeNyia Vang also was among four Tartan students to win “Ambassador Torch” awards for participation in community events. The others were Mercedes Heng, Mason Vang and Anh Vo.

The event, which ran from May 6-10, drew more than 5,000 people.

Anthony Lonetree