by TaLeiza Calloway
Emma Bergwall knew who the culprit was before looking through the microscope for a second time. There were five suspects and collected soil samples were supposed to identify who stole playground equipment from Kennedy Community School Oct. 11. In the end it was Janitor Joe who was found guilty of the crime.
Second-grade students at Kennedy Community School were asked to solve the hypothetical mystery as part of a lesson in soil forensics. The lesson was possible thanks to a visit from St. Cloud State University’s Science Express. Principal Diane Moeller said the mobile science lab’s stop at Kennedy was made possible due to a grant from the St. Cloud School District.
Second-grade teacher Kevin Beneke was glad to see something like the Science Express come to the school. The lesson in soil forensics was also timely as land science is the next lesson on the agenda for his students. They liked using the microscopes.
“This is perfect,” Beneke said of the Science Express. “Hands-on learning is very important for second grade.”
Students took turns looking at soil types through the microscope and writing down what they saw. Specifically, they had to pay attention to the color, size of the rocks, the amount of soil and the type of soil they were observing to see similarities or differences.
The Science Express visits hundreds of schools statewide with up to seven classes being taught per day. This year, it is the younger learner they are hoping to reach more with a focus on students in K-8th grade Susan Bialka said. Bialka is the full-time science teacher for the Science Express. The decision to focus on these ages was made because they found they hadn’t visited many K-8 schools.
“Our whole goal is to make science touchable,” Bialka said, “to make it real.”
Part of making science real to students is bridging the gap between what students might see in their classrooms to what scientists use in an actual lab. Making this connection is what the Science Express works to do for students, Bialka said.
Bialka travels to schools statewide with the goal of providing hands-on experience and sparking an interest in science. She is assisted by instructors Mike Gabrielson and Jessica Anderson. All visits are free.
The Science Express reaches between 15,000 and 16,000 students each year in central Minnesota between grades pre-K through 12. The experience includes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) training. For more information about the Science Express, visit: www.stcloudstate.edu/scienceexpress.