VALPARAISO — Michelle Salomon's science room at Valparaiso High School was filled with students working on a variety of science projects. Some of the students were much younger than usual — second-graders from Hayes Leonard Elementary working on projects with juniors and seniors in the high school AP chemistry class.

Second-grade teachers Heather Treece and Sharon McCorkle have been working with their students to come up with experiences the children could work on with high school partners.

"We looked at science standards and had the children rank the top three," Treece said Tuesday. "We told the children to be creative and have ownership. After they finish the projects they have come up with a presentation for their parents."

Some of the projects included learning wind speed and making paper.

"We even incorporated technology so the students could use their iPads and make Google documents so the students could look at the research," Treece added.

Salomon said these projects were a collaborative effort between the second-graders and her students.

"We let the second-graders lead with their ideas, and the high schoolers are basically the mentors in the projects," Salomon said.

Maia Lazerwitz, a senior, was teamed with Naia Nikitaras and Mya Platipodis to use recycling materials and plant something.

"We were going to use seeds and plant them in plastic pop bottles, but they gave us hostas so now we have to figure out how to fit them in the containers," Lazerwitz said.

Kris Nguyen, a junior, enjoyed working with Blake Duvall and Kadence VanDusseldorp.

"We are making a Rube Goldberg project, and we are going to get water to pour into a cup," said Nguyen, who has done Rube Goldberg projects before.

Duvall and VanDusseldorp were having fun using the Legos and cars to get their project to work.

"Building it is the fun part," Duvall said.

McCorkle said the excitement the children have had is the best part of this project.

"This is all they have been talking about, and how they can't wait to go to the high school to work on their projects," she said. "They have all been researching their projects."

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Annette is Porter County Community Coordinator for The Times. She has been with the paper for 20 years. A resident of Hobart, she graduated from Purdue University with degrees in English and German.