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Red Wing's youngest scientists

How much snow fell in Antarctica in 1957?

What impact can a moving glacier have on buildings?

What happens when snow piles up year after year for centuries?

Scientists in Red Wing conducted a series of experiments Thursday morning to find answers to these questions.

Well, maybe they weren't actual scientists.

But they were science students in Jody Bergeson's fifth-grade class at Twin Bluff Middle School. It's all part of The Science Museum of Minnesota's visit to the school.

Beginning last week, and for the next two weeks, teaching staff from the St. Paul museum will set up shop at Twin Bluff, teaching topics based on a theme and helping students conduct experiments.

Last week, all Twin Bluff fifth-graders explored Antarctica, learning about glaciers, oil spills and wildlife. They also worked with model ice cores to find out how much snow fell in Antarctica in a given year and created their own glaciers to see how ice masses are capable of moving buildings.

And even though they aren't professional scientists, the students were collecting data much the same way working scientists do.

"There's a process. This is what [scientists] really go through and it's important to select all the data and be accurate," Sam Horak, an outreach teacher from the museum, said.

It's that connection to the world outside of the classroom that science teacher Bergeson hopes her students gain from this experience.

"[Science is] part of your life and it's exciting. It has a purpose. You don't want to teach science in isolation," she said.

Bergeson was integral in getting the museum to visit the school, securing a $5145 grant from the Red Wing Public Schools Foundation to fund it.

She says bringing exhibits into the school, rather than transporting kids to museums is more cost-effective.

"Instead of the money going to buses, it [goes] to the program and then directly to the kids," Bergeson said.

This isn't the first time she's brought in outside exhibits. In September, the Exploradome, a portable planetarium from the Minnesota Planetarium Society, visited the school. That was also funded by a grant from the Red Wing Public Schools Foundation.

The hands-on aspect of these museum exhibits is what that Bergeson says is most important and why she has them visit the school.

"Not all kids learn by seeing. It's another way to reinforce the concept," she said.

And the kids seem to be enjoying it too.

"I love it. It's fun," fifth-grader Tristan Kaeder said. "It's better than normal class."

In the coming weeks, it will be the sixth and seventh graders turns to get their hands dirty. Next week, the sixth graders will study energy, and the following week, the seventh graders will learn the basics of forensics.

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.