Sixth graders visit The Hormel Institute

Published 7:05 am Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Hormel Institute was the place to be for IJ Holton Intermediate School students to take a look into a STEAM  career field on Friday.

Throughout the day, sixth grade students toured The Hormel Institute to see firsthand where cancer research takes place, as well as learned more about how STEAM subjects they’re learning in school could be applied into a career. Perhaps one day, several of these students will be working in cancer research labs at the institute.

For garnering interest in a career, sixth grade would be the prime time to have students begin to look into their interests and see what courses they could take to lead into their futures, said Chelsea Brolsma, IJ Holton Intermediate sixth grade teacher.

Andre Green, an IJ Holton Intermediate School sixth grade student, watches the demonstration conducted by Dr. Rebecca Morris at The Hormel Institute. A reaction took place when dry ice was dropped into hot water, as well as some dish soap.
Hannah Yang/

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“Today we talked about DNA in class, and actually getting to see what they’re learning in school is extremely important,” Brolsma said. “Our sixth graders got a chance to choose their classes for seventh grade based on what their interests are.”

From demonstrations involving liquid nitrogen and shattering lettuce leaves to reactive dry ice and hot water to color changing water, there was a myriad of activities for students to see science in action. Scientists also showed 3D projections of skin cancer cells, as well as showed the cryo-electron microscope, which helps researchers analyze the structure of proteins and amino acids.

Brolsma noted that having an internationally-known institution like The Hormel Institute in town was invaluable for the Austin Public Schools District to have as a resource and an educational opportunity to apply topics that are taught at IJ Holton directly into real life.

“It’s such an amazing hub for science,” she said. “Our students can see that there’s more to Austin and see that there is a career that they can gravitate toward.”

Some of the sixth grade students got to visit The Hormel Institute for the first time, such as Devin Braum. He noted that it was a unique opportunity to visit an actual research facility that was in his hometown, as opposed to going somewhere in the Twin Cities to learn more about careers in the STEM field.

Gretchen Ramlow, The Hormel Institute volunteer, shares the history of cancer research with IJ Holton Intermediate School sixth grade students on Friday.
Hannah Yang/

“I like it,” Baum said. “I didn’t know there was research happening in Austin, usually you see something like this in the big cities.”

Other students found inspiration to continue pursuing subjects in the STEM field, such as Andre Green, who loves to build computers and video game programs. Although not entirely certain he’d go specifically into research, Green was encouraged by what he witnessed.

“I love how they’re trying to find a cure for cancer,” Green said. “I want to try and stop cancer someday. I like how they bring people from other countries. I like that a huge facility like this one has everybody working together to get things done.”