Skip to main content

Murray Journal

Viewmont student Preston Marshall wins high honors at the state science fair

Apr 30, 2022 11:53AM ● By Peri Kinder

Preston Marshall placed third at the state-level science fair at the University of Utah. His plant sciences project depicted how to grow a better garden. (Photo courtesy of Cindy Nordstrom)

By Peri Kinder | [email protected]

Competing against hundreds of young scientists, Preston Marshall took home a third-place finish at the state-level science fair held at the University of Utah in April. The 11-year-old Taylorsville resident attends sixth grade at Viewmont Elementary. His project, Grow a Better Garden with Less Water in a Drought, is intended to draw attention to water use.

“I did it because there’s a drought in Utah and I wanted to see what variable would come out on top in the experiment,” Preston said. “Scientists want to solve problems. I was interested in reducing water consumption.”

His experiment involved growing radish plants under different conditions: using organic fertilizer, watering with banana peel water, growing in a mini greenhouse, and using no outside influence.

Preston hypothesized the fertilizer would produce the biggest plants but was surprised when the greenhouse plants outgrew all other experiments.

“Anything that traps moisture gives the best results, according to my data,” Preston said.

His journey to the state science fair started with books he studied to learn “science-y words and processes.” He won the Viewmont Elementary Science Fair before moving through the district level and on to state where he competed against 200 fifth and sixth graders in the Elementary division.

“My whole family came. When they announced it, we were all excited,” he said. “I like learning. You can never learn everything. There’s always more to learn. That’s what science is, you’re always discovering new things.”

As a fan of science, Preston enjoys reading “Astrophysics for Kids” and listening to astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson. While he hasn’t narrowed down a future career path, he’s interested in becoming a scientist, or maybe an attorney or judge.

“I’m good at arguing and good at winning arguments,” he said. “I want to join the debate club if they have it in seventh grade.”

Preston’s mom, Jenalee Marshall, was influenced by her son’s project. His findings made her rethink how to take care of a vegetable garden by lowering water consumption, utilizing empty milk jugs as a greenhouse around plants, and using potassium to enrich the soil.

Preston shared his recipe for banana peel water, which leaches potassium from the peels. He said potassium is an easy and inexpensive fertilizer that uses food waste.

“I put a banana peel in water overnight in a sealed glass jar to give the plant potassium and make the plant healthy. I then threw away the peel to use just the banana water.”

“From a functional standpoint, these are things we can use to practice sustainable gardening and extend the growing season,” Marshall said. “We talk in our household. We are very open about scientific questions. I’m helping my children have an open mind about truth and finding truth for themselves.”