A kickstart to success

Chatham Middle peppermint study wins state recognition

BY ZACHARY HORNER, News + Record Staff
Posted 5/31/19

SILER CITY — Macy Beavers and Brady Andrew’s award-winning science project almost didn’t happen.

“I was planning on doing something with peppermint,” Beavers said. “I wasn’t going to …

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A kickstart to success

Chatham Middle peppermint study wins state recognition

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Posted

SILER CITY — Macy Beavers and Brady Andrew’s award-winning science project almost didn’t happen.

“I was planning on doing something with peppermint,” Beavers said. “I wasn’t going to have a partner, but Ms. Angus” — Beavers’ science teacher, Simone Angus — “she wanted us to have a partner. So I was asking around and most people had partners. I walked into the gym one day and asked Brady if he wanted to be my partner.”

Brady did. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Beavers and Andrew, a pair of eighth graders at Chatham Middle School, recently won first place in the junior category of Biological Science A at the N.C. State Science Fair and are headed to the national level of science fairs — and all for studying the effect of peppermint on standardized testing.

Public education entities have recently been re-evaluating the place of standardized tests in schools. N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson has instituted several changes in testing policy and practices this year, including reducing the number of questions on state tests, in an attempt to help student success.

Perhaps Johnson can take advantage of Beavers and Andrew’s research.

“We really used the problem of standardized tests because that’s a huge issue today, for me personally,” said Andrew. “There have been studies done that show peppermint increases reaction time in a state of mental fatigue. During a test, I get tired. I wondered if we could test that and somehow prove that, if you did take peppermints before a big standardized test, it could increase your scores.”

The pair gathered data from 48 people of varying ages, from middle school to old age. Participants ate a peppermint before going to a website and taking a test. On the page, a light would flash and the participants would try to respond as quickly as possible by clicking on where the light was. The goal was to see if peppermints improved reaction time.

And according to the researchers, it did.

“When you take a peppermint, the peppermint oils, you don’t taste them, you smell them,” Andrew said. “That releases more oxygen to the brain. When you have more oxygen in the brain, it helps you to concentrate and it helps your reaction time.”

Overall, reaction times improved. The results among age groups varied — school-aged individuals had differing results, middle-aged people’s reaction times improved and the elderly’s response slowed.

The project won Chatham Middle’s science fair and then took the top prize in its category at the state level, surprising both Andrew and Beavers.

“It was very simple,” Beavers said. “We weren’t expecting it to go this far.”

Angus, the pair’s science teacher, provided some assistance on the project. She wasn’t surprised.

“These students have been groomed since grade six,” Angus said. “I don’t take all the credit, I’ll give more credit to the teachers who were there for them before. They have been molding them in the right direction. There wasn’t much work for me to do.”

Angus added that she was “very proud” they came from her class, a pride Chatham Middle Principal Chad Morgan shared.

“With Brady and Macy, they just really have excelled,” he said. “We’re very proud of them, the teachers are very proud. Just seeing that they are representing our school throughout this whole process has been great.”

With their win, the pair qualified for the Broadcom MASTERS, a nationwide science and engineering competition for middle school students. Last year’s winner, a 14-year-old from California, won a $25,000 prize.

Both students said they’d likely tinker with their project over the summer and add on to what’s been done in hopes to make it stronger. Regardless of what happens next, their teachers are happy about what they’ve accomplished.

“They have the potential,” Angus said. “They are very strong students. They will go the extra mile to ensure that they get the high score in everything that they do.”

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at zhorner@chathamnr.com and on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.

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