A smart investment
It's called a smart investment.
Arkema Inc. of Blooming Prairie has been grooming future engineers since 1996 when the chemical plant made a commitment to provide area schools with the resources to educate their students further in the realm of science.
Six teachers from southeastern Minnesota participated in a three-day classroom setting at Arkema, located in the heart of Blooming Prairie.
During the three-day event, Arkema scientists provided hands-on mentoring to help elementary school teachers discover new ways to make science interesting for the students they’ll be teaching this fall.
Learning kits valued at about $500 each are given to the teachers following completion of the three-day class.
New Blooming Prairie Elementary School principal Jacob Schwarz was an onlooker during the presentation of student teams on Tuesday Aug. 6. "I'm totally impressed by this program brought to us by Arkema," remarked Schwarz.
"The program prepares children for the future, thus I applaud Arkema for making a science classroom for three days for three schools each year.
"It's quality lessons and curriculum for our elementary students," said Schwarz.
Fifteen years ago Schwarz was a third grade teacher from Austin's Banfield Elementary School who participated in the science program.
The Arkema program brings life into the classroom. It recognizes providing a strong science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education program.
Teachers choose their areas of interest and work together with Arkema mentors to master science kit experiments.
Each participating teacher in the program selects a science kit that contains teaching aids and tools related to a specific topic. Each kit includes materials and instructions for classroom science demonstrations that engage students and bring concepts to life.
This year's schools include Blooming Prairie Elementary School, McKinley Elementary School in Owatonna and New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva.
During the three-day science retreat, Arkema scientists provided hands-on mentoring to help elementary school teachers discover new ways to make science interesting for student they will be teaching this fall.
This year's subjects were: energy and electromagnetism, next generation environments and next generation mixtures and solutions.
Following the program, Arkema provides a donation to each participating school for the science kits.
Teachers participating in the three-day program were Kayla Harvey and Matt Kittelson of the Blooming Prairie Elementary School; Paige Gilligan and Amy Wencl of the McKinley Elementary School in Owatonna and Wendy Schultz and Amy Johns of the NRHEG Elementary school in Ellendale.
Harvey and Kittelson chose the Foss Energy and Electromagnetism kit while Gilligan and Wencl picked the Foss Energy and Electromagnetism kit, and Schultz and Johns selected the Next Generation Environments kits.
Each summer, Arkema shares time, resources and expertise in order to spark students’ curiosity and generate enthusiasm for the sciences. During the three-day science retreat, teachers were teamed with these Arkema engineers: Crystal Roach, Michael Green, Arkema plant manager, Ricky Soto, Shivam Yadav, Scott Gedde and Jinbin Chen.
On presentation day, fifth grade teacher Kayla Harvey and sixth grade teacher Matt Kittelson were first to share their research into electricity and magnetism. This team studied forms of energy.
Kittelson emphasized that these science kids will benefit students in ways other than science. Morse code was also studied by this team.
On the practical side, Blooming Prairie elementary teachers Harvey and Kitteson could incorporate electricity and magnetism into energy allowing students to practice spelling words.
Gilligan and Wencl were next and used a rubber band vehicle to show force and motion, ending with a vehicle having propellers. Ten cars were featured in their kit. The team said they are striving to have two connect sets.
The team of Schultz and Johns chose the environment because kids love living things, said Schultz.
Four investigations were detailed by Schultz and Johns. Investigation One centered around meal worms. Investigation Two pertained to the aquatic eco system. The team of Schultz and Johns work with the hatching of brine shrimp and herring in the third investigation. Investigation Four studies water tolerance of seeds. Peas, barley, corn and radish seeds.
Arkema’s Green participated in his second science-teacher program.
The science-teacher program may point kids toward engineering or work as a chemist. "Sponsoring this program is our way of supporting the community," said Green.
Green says he is also hopeful that Blooming Prairie students may some day return to Blooming Prairie and possibly work at Arkema as an engineer or chemist. We are desperate for these types of people," said Green.
The corporate level of Arkema "really likes" the science-teacher program, said Green.
For Schultz, it was her third appearance at the Arkema science classroom experience. "These kits help us during our science curricular studies," she said.
Harvey and Kittelson will be invited to make a presentation to the Arkema Citizens Advisory Panel next spring.