S: Gamma's Science Experiment
BC: All my love, Gamma
FC: Gamma's Science Experiment: A true story about me as a little girl
1: The city where I grew up, New York, was the most populous city in the world. With so many people in a small area, there wasn’t room for everyone to have a separate house with its own trees and grass and flowers. Most people lived in tall buildings that had many apartments and each family lived in its own apartment. Some buildings were SO tall they were called “sky-scrapers,” and New York had the tallest ones.
2: Mommy (my mother), Mama (my grandmother), and I lived in a 6-story building that had 24 apartments! Our apartment had 3 bedrooms (a “spare” bedroom was used mostly for storage--that will matter later in this story), a living room, kitchen, bathroom, and long hallway between the entry door and the front rooms where we spent most of our time. The front bedroom windows looked over the street. The other windows looked at our neighbors.
3: Just about the only time I saw trees and grass and plants growing was in a nearby park. Most city parks were like very wide sidewalks—lots of concrete with a few trees and some benches. No one ever sat on the small patches of weedy grass that grew at the base of the trees—that was where people walked their dogs.
4: There were a few big, lush parks in New York City. This is Central Park, which has lots of trees, bushes, grass, birds, flowers, and squirrels. It is world-famous, but we did not go there often, as it was too far from where we lived.
5: At the time this story starts, I was in third grade and learning about plants by doing science experiments. First we put a dried bean between two sheets of thick paper that were kept moist for several days. I was surprised to see a tiny, squiggly root start to grow.
6: Next, our teacher brought clean soil to school and we planted the beans in milk cartons left over from lunch. We watered them carefully and put them on the windowsill of the classroom. A few days later, small green leaves popped up and turned toward the sun. The teacher explained that this is how we get our food!
7: She said the bean was a seed. When a seed combined with water, nutrients in the soil, and the energy of the sun, it would grow and create more plants just like it.
8: Seeds were not the only way to create new plants. Sometimes you could use part of the old plant. For our next experiment, we put an onion bulb or a piece of sweet potato part way into a jar of water. | In a few days, the dry onion had developed roots and a lovely green stem began shooting up.
9: The sweet potato was even more dramatic. The shoots got so tall the glossy green leaves eventually trailed down the side of the jar. She explained that this vine would soon make new sweet potatoes.
10: As we were growing these science experiments, our teacher tried to explain how photosynthesis is the basis of ALL the food people eat, even milk, meat, and eggs. I had seen pictures of farm animals in books, but I couldn't quite make the connection between plants and animals and the container of milk, carton of eggs, or package of meat that Mama and I got when we went shopping.
12: And I had NO IDEA that the apples, tomatoes, melons, and green beans that I loved to eat came from plants! This was an amazing discovery! I decided to surprise Mommy and Mama by growing food for us.
13: One afternoon when Mama was out and Mommy was napping, I took two big baking pans from the kitchen to the spare room. I put them in the closet, because I remembered that the roots of the plants developed best where it was dark. I put lots of onions in one pan and sweet potatoes in the other and added water. Then I closed the door of the closet, thinking that in a little while I would end up with many new onions and potatoes.
14: For the first few days, I peeked into the closet each time I went to the bathroom, so no one would notice how often I walked to that end of the hall. Not much was happening with my plants. Then we started learning about something else in school and I forgot about my science experiment!
15: Meanwhile, as I found out later, Mama was very, very confused about things that had disappeared from her kitchen. | She knew she had two big baking pans, but where were they? She knew there had been more onions and sweet potatoes, but they were also missing. | What a mystery!!
16: Also, she noticed a very odd smell. First, Mama thought it came from the kitchen, so she cleaned out the cupboards and the fridge. But the next day the smell was stronger, so she did extra laundry. That didn't help, either. | Then Mama started walking from the bedrooms to the kitchen to the living-room--sniff, sniff, sniffing--what could it be? And where was it coming from? Finally, she discovered the smell was strongest near the bathroom, so Mama cleaned it with disinfectant. But the smell wouldn't go away!
17: Then, Mama opened the door to the spare room. The smell was AWFUL!! But where could it be coming from? The room held mostly extra furniture, old clothes, and boxes of papers. THEN, Mama opened the closet door! | There on the bottom of the closet was my experiment in indoor farming. The onions and potatoes had grown roots and leaves, but with no dirt and no sun, the new growth sat in the water and rotted. Mama's favorite baking pans were filled with a slimy, glurpy mess of rotten vegetable goo.
18: I felt really, really sad. Instead of surprising her with food, I had surprised her with a big, stinky mess. But somehow, without even asking, Mama understood what had happened. She hugged me and we cleaned up the experiment together.
19: That night, after I had been asleep for a while, I awoke to hear Mama talking to Mommy, who had come home late from work. I couldn't hear their words, but I heard a lot of happy laughter as I drifted back to sleep.