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Fifth Grader Sheds Light On Bullying With Science Fair Project

COMMACK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A middle schooler on Long Island is hoping her science project can help put an end to bullying.

As CBS2's Ali Bauman reported Wednesday, she is shedding light on the problem by using plants.

Samantha Petraglia and her mom were still trying to nurse a dead plant back to life, after the fifth grader's class killed it, and not with kindness.

"I feel sad about the bullied plant because I don't like to see anything die or anything like that," Samantha said.

Bullied plants project
Samantha Petraglia poses with the two plants she used in her science fair project. (Photo: CBSN New York)

For her science fair project this year, the 11-year-old and her mom bought two of the same types of plants, from the same nursery. Both were then placed on the same windowsill inside her classroom.

"This way, it was even. They had the same amount of water, the same amount of sunlight," Amy Petraglia said.

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The only difference, one was verbally complimented every day by Samantha's classmates and the other bullied. Students tracked it all by a checklist.

"The rules were, with bullying the plant, say mean things to it. Call the plant ugly. Call the plant fat. Call the plant stupid. No cursing, obviously, but just be mean to it," Amy Petraglia said.

The plant that was bullied began to wilt right away, and after just six days, it died, while the one that received compliments continued to grow.

"I am so sad when looking at this plant. It makes me think, if bullying a plant after just six days basically kills it, imagine bullying a child, a vulnerable child," Amy Petraglia said.

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Last year, the furniture company Ikea conducted a similar experiment as a public service announcement against bullying and got the same result. According to the Long Island Coalition Against Bullying, 68.4 percent of Long Island middle school students express they were bullied in school. Samantha said she was one of them, which prompted her to do the experiment.

"I like that it shows how bullying can wear you down and hurt you and hurt your feelings," she said.

There's no concrete proof that the science project actually worked, but for this Commack family, they're happy it at least served as a teaching tool.

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