Decoding Lactose: Dairy Project Wins First Place at Pa. Science Fair

5/24/2014 7:00 AM
By Linda Williams Southwestern Pa. Correspondent

IMLER, Pa. — Macy Walason, daughter of Jeffrey and Angelique Walason of Imler, Pa., received the first-place prize overall for grade six through eight at the Central Pennsylvania Science Fair.

Her project was titled, “Lactose Levels in Various Milks.”

The Chestnut Ridge School District seventh-grader was encouraged to enter the science fair, held at Sidman, Pa., by her science teacher, Tammy Snow.

“She knew I was interested in agriculture and asked me to come up with something related to farming,” Macy said.

In fact, Macy is so involved in agriculture, she could not attend the science fair herself because she was at the National Guernsey Convention. Her teacher took Macy’s display for her.

Two other Chestnut Ridge students also entered the competition. This was the first time any Chestnut Ridge student has ever won the Pennsylvania award.

Macy’s mom, Angelique, is a milk tester and dairy herd improvement technician at Green Slopes Farm. The farm is owned by the Galen McDonald family, which has been raising and showing Guernsey cows for many years. The farm has about 60 head of milking Guernseys.

The lactose in milk makes up about 2.8 percent of the milk. It is disaccharide sugar derived from galactose and glucose from the milk. Lactose is what causes some people to be unable to digest dairy products.

For her project, Macy studied four different types of milk including low-fat, whole, powdered and unprocessed goat milk. She wanted to determine which of these four had the highest and lowest amounts of lactose.

Before the project, Macy guessed that whole milk would have the highest levels of lactose and powdered milk would have the lowest. After a day and a half working on her project, she was very surprised.

Powdered milk had the highest levels of lactose and unprocessed goat milk had the lowest. She realized this may be the reason that some babies and even adults do much better on goat milk.

Her science project display included an introduction, the question (regarding lactose), the hypothesis, the materials she used, data, pictures of the work in progress, methods used, her research, the conclusion and the resources (the family farm).

The prize for taking home first place was a full-ride scholarship to participate in this summer’s ATOMS (Advance Teaching of Math and Science) scholars program. This is a hands-on, in-depth science and math-oriented summer program. It falls under the Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8 and, according to its website, this program is offered to second- through eighth-grade students who have grades of 90 percent or higher in math and science.

In the summer of 2014, there will be 13 host schools throughout the Appalachia IU8 area. It is highly competitive and not every student who applies is accepted.

Macy plans to attend at the end of June but is not yet certain of the location.

Growing up on a farm has certainly helped Macy with her interest in agriculture. Her parents own a few acres located about 5 miles from the 160-acre Green Slopes Farm where Macy keeps most of her animals. She has about 16 cows of her own. .She also has an older brother, Tanner.

She belongs to the Southern Cove Dairy and Livestock 4-H Club and has competed with dairy cows, sheep and steer. Her favorite Guernsey cow, Maggie, helped her bring home the showmanship trophy from the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

A few of her other interests are playing the piano, golfing and basketball. In the future, she hopes to do something with farming and/or science.


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10/22/2014 | Last Updated: 3:31 PM