BP business donates to classrooms

Published 12:02 pm Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ellis Middle School teacher Traci Braaten tries to figure out what's in a small black box without opening it Tuesday during the Arkema Inc.'s Science Teacher Program in Blooming Prairie. Groups of teachers presented projects they've worked on that could be used in classrooms. -- Eric Johnson/ photodesk@austindaily herald.com

Teachers got a little messy Tuesday.

Several area teachers gathered together, rubbing pencils against paper before sticking their fingers on the graphite and making fingerprints. A few chemical engineers and science mentors joined them, working together to figure out how a few simple experiments could translate to the classroom.

Mark Carlson, a fifth-grade teacher at Hayfield, gives instruction on how to figure out what's inside small black boxes he handed out Tuesday during the second day of the Arkema Science Teacher Program in Blooming Prairie.

The classroom demonstrations are a part of Arkema Inc.’s week-long Science Teacher Program, the first mentorship since 2008. The Blooming Prairie company gives science classroom kits to eight elementary school teachers, who then learn to use the kit effectively. Each teacher will take their kit and lessons back, and each school receives $500 to replenish the kits’ supplies.

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“It’s really exciting,” said John Lakenan, Blooming Prairie plant manager. “It’s great to see a company do this. This makes a huge impact.”

Each kit made a huge impact on teachers Tuesday. As each two-person group presented, everyone took notes on different teaching techniques.

When Hayfield science teacher Mark Carlson mentioned letting students hold “conventions” to teach each other about the day’s experiment, every teacher in the room looked excited.

Banfield Elementary teachers Kim Richardson and Tammy Wiste describe their project and its use in a classroom during the second day Tuesday at the Arkema Inc.'s Science Teacher Program in Blooming Prairie.

“That’s something we can use,” Traci Braaten told Erin Schoen, both Southgate Elementary School teachers.

There were kits on the properties of water, using water drops to see how volume and mass affects water density. There were presentations on symmetry and fingerprint swirls, part of the Inventors unit Braaten and Schoen worked on. There were plenty of questions and even more smiles.

“We thought it was a perfect fit for us,” said Tammy Wiste, Banfield Elementary School teacher.

These teachers will work until the end of the week on bringing these lessons to the classroom. There’s a lot of excitement here, as these kits could make science classes loud, raucous places once more, where students learn by doing instead of listening.

“That’s what science should be,” said Kim Richardson, Banfield teacher. “Kids working, kids talking with each other and stuff happening, not just sitting there reading a book.”