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Kids connect science and math at Lowell

College of St. Scholastica sophomore Zoe Bystrom shares a look of excitement with Lowell kindergartners MacKenzie and Ari during STEM day last Tuesday. This experiment taught students the difference between electronic conductors and insulators. If the students connected the wires to a conductor, a tiny bulb would light up. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)1 / 4
College of St. Scholastica student Krissa Boman teaches Nathan, Eli and Oliver about landslides. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)2 / 4
Lowell kindergartner Aubrey builds a strand of DNA using gummy bears and licorice. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)3 / 4
College of St. Scholastica professor Allen Chaparadza created this experiment to demonstrate a decomposition reaction for students at Lowell STEM day. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)4 / 4

What do you get when you mix 7,500 gummy bears with 700 pieces of licorice, five scientists and 100 college students?  Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) day at Lowell elementary school last Tuesday.

Students from the College of St. Scholastica (CSS) developed and lead STEM activities and exhibits for the K-5th grade Lowell students.

The goal for the event was twofold: to engage the young students in the process of science and to provide an opportunity for college students to engage with their community and practice their teaching skills.

“It’s been a really cool experience. It’s fun to see the kids make the connections,” said education major sophomore Zoe Bystrom. “I changed my major after my freshman year and I was a little cautious about it, but doing this helps confirm what I want to do after graduation.”

The event was a service-learning component for St. Scholastica’s genetics, life science, math and physics classes, according to Kara Thoemke, assistant professor and chair of the Biology Department. Students represent a variety of majors, including chemistry, nursing and education. Students put together science displays and hands-on exhibits to help the elementary school students learn about STEM topics. Six faculty members accompanied the students.

Chemistry professor Allen Chaparadza was on hand to demonstrate a decomposition reaction experiment. Chaparadza said his goal with the experiment was to not only get kids excited about science, but to encourage them not to experiment by mixing household products.

“You can get quite a big reaction from regular household things. So we talk about the safety equipment and how you should never try this at home on your own,” Chaparadza said.

Other stations focused on fish classification, the food chain, basic mathematics and physical geography. One station taught students about DNA structure by having students build a DNA strand using different colored gummy bears on toothpicks as nucleotides and licorice as hydrogen bonds.

“Today the kids are learning a lot of different things we can refer back to. I don’t think that DNA structure is something I’ll cover in my second grade class. But it’s something the kids can think back on in sixth or seventh grade when they do learn it,” said second grade Lowell teacher Sofia Woyno.

But the best part of the program for Woyno was being able to enjoy it alongside her students.

“Normally, I have to plan or run a booth when we have events like this, but today I just get to have fun and learn with my kids. We really appreciate the college students coming in and being prepared. It makes for a fun day,” Woyno said.

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

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