St. Joseph students turn into scientists during event at SCSU

by TaLeiza Calloway –

From determining how to survive a zombie apocalypse, examining the inside of a pig’s heart and  learning how to make ice cream in a plastic bag, the students who participated in the Science Rocks! educational event learned a lot.  Twenty fifth- and sixth-graders from Kennedy Community School in St. Joseph were among area students who journeyed Jan. 10 to St. Cloud State University to see just why science rocks.

Science Rocks! is a daylong event complete with more than 30 different sessions on the sciences for fifth- and sixth-grade students. Sponsored by Resource Training and Solutions of St. Cloud, the goal of the event is to expose students to something new and spark an interest in science, organizers said. That exposure includes lessons in ecology, biology, chemistry, physics and archaeology. This year there were 660 students from area school districts that included the St. Cloud Area School District and the Sartell-St. Stephen School District.

This is the seventh year for the event that grew from a conversation. Sandra Cordie and Rebecca Krystyniak met seven years ago at a women’s leadership conference. It was there they made a connection and a commitment to bring the science event to St. Cloud State University. Cordie, a Sartell resident, is the director of educational programs at Resource Training and Solutions. Krystyniak is an associate professor of chemistry and science at SCSU.

“We are getting students engaged in hands-on learning in math, science and engineering activities,” Krystyniak said. “The kids like what they’re learning and are excited to be on a college campus.”

Krystyniak said when children are in middle school, they like science but that interest fades once they get to high school. Whether it’s the belief it’s too hard or is for a certain type of student, once students enter high school they often think science is a subject to be avoided. What she hopes Science Rocks! does for them is provide a positive perspective about science and even introduce a possible career path they might not have considered before.

“Everybody can do science,” she said. “This is a great opportunity for them to get  a positive perspective on science and see that it relates to their life.”

Cordie said the event grew from 244 students in the first year to 660 this year. While the goal is to expose students to science and nature, there’s more to it for Cordie.

“We want them to experience something new,” Cordie said. “The biggest thing for me is providing them with mentors, allowing them to see female city engineers and city planners and a variety of (professions).

Karen Tadych, fifth-grade teacher at Kennedy, is in her first year at the school. She said she has taught in District 742 for years but this was her first time at the Science Rocks! event. She was amazed at how much variety and freedom the students had as they went from session to session. They chose what sessions they wanted to attend.

“This is such a great opportunity for students,” Tadych said. “The kids are so involved and engaged. It’s going well.”

Tadych had her students write a letter stating why they should go on the field trip. Sam Holthaus of St. Joseph had only one word to describe the day: “Sweet.” The 10-year-old St. Joseph resident is a fifth-grade student at Kennedy.

“I was lucky enough to get picked to come,” Holthaus said. “It’s a sweet experience.”

While some might get a little squeamish examining a pig’s heart, students Heather Kirchner and Keardyn Hawker jumped right in. The 10-year-olds held their own as the heart bulged during their examination.

“It was different,” Hawker said with a smile.

Kirchner said she learned a lot about the different parts of the animal’s heart. She was surprised at how heavy it was. Students were participating in a session called “It Makes Your Blood Run.”

Cordie said Resource Training and Solutions also hosts another science-focused event called, “Project Earth” in the spring for seventh- and eighth-grade students. The event is held at St. John’s University in Collegeville.

[/media-credit] Kennedy Community School student Heather Kirchner feels the inside of a pig’s heart Jan. 10 during a science session called, “It Makes Your Blood Run,” at St. Cloud State University. Keardyn Hawker (right), fifth grader at Kennedy does the same.

[/media-credit] Sam Holthaus of St. Joseph, examines a pig heart Jan. 10 during the Science Rocks! event at St. Cloud State University. The 10-year-old was one of 20 students from Kennedy Community School to attend.

[/media-credit] Keardyn Hawker, 10 of St. Joseph, examines the parts of a pig’s heart Jan. 10 during the Science Rocks! event at St. Cloud State University. Hawker was one of 20 students from Kennedy Community School in St. Joseph to participate in the event.

[/media-credit] William Cook, a biology professor at St. Cloud State University, leads a session called, “Furs, Fangs and Femurs” Jan. 10 during the Science Rocks! event at SCSU. Gian DelFratt, 10, of St. Cloud listens in the background.

[/media-credit] Craig Roerick, extension livestock educator for Stearns, Benton and Morrison counties, shows students how to make ice cream in a plastic bag Jan. 10. Roerick was one of more than 30 presenters during a science education event at St. Cloud State University.

TaLeiza Calloway

TaLeiza Calloway is a professional journalist in Central Minnesota. Her byline has appeared in the St. Cloud Times and Central Minnesota Women Magazine. The Ohio native moved to Minnesota about four years ago. She joined the St. Joseph Newsleader staff as a reporter in November 2011.
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