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Electives class gives Holy Redeemer students the power to choose what they want to explore and learn about in a hands-on setting at school.

March 12, 2011
Story, photo by Jenny Kirk

Yellow crime scene tape plastered the doorway and a corner of the lab room at Holy Redeemer School recently.

While there was an outline of a body carefully taped to the floor and remnants of a terrible act sprayed on the wall and lab table, no real crime actually took place. Rather, some HRS students were participating in a (fake) blood splatter experiment in a "mad science" class they chose as an elective class.

Besides mad science, kids had six other options this quarter: people playing games, pepper, origami, fitness, chess and nutrition.

Article Photos

In a “Mad Science” elective class at Holy Redeemer School, Courtney Roth, left, and Amber Engels measure (fake) blood as part of a blood splatter experiment to try and determine what happened to a (pretend) victim.

"We try to come up with different things," said Peggy Seldat, HRS administrative assistant. "We've had scrapbooking and a lot of other exciting activities. We try to make sure the kids are repeating classes. The eighth-graders get to pick first."As a tradition for more than 10 years at HRS, middle school students - fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades - have been given the opportunity to take a variety of elective classes during two of the four quarter of the school year.

After choosing a class that interests them, the students attend for six weeks, on Fridays from 2-3 p.m.

"Electives were part of the middle school program when I arrived 11 years ago," said Carol DeSmet, HRS principal. "I believe the original intent was to provide opportunities for students in all four grades to get to know one another, providing more of a family atmosphere. It also gives students the opportunity to learn something that might not be offered in the daily curriculum."

Mad science is a popular elective, with teachers Kathy Richardson and Sharon Wenker coordinating the activities. The first week, students had fun making oobleck and slime.

"That was awesome," eighth-grader Logan Miller said.

A few weeks later, the science lab was turned into a mock crime scene and the students had to determine what happened to a (pretend) victim by examining the blood splatter.

"I think it's cool that you can tell how people were hit by the way the blood is," Addy Wolbaum said.

Wolbaum was in a group with Miller and Noah Louwagie.

"Right when I saw the elective, I knew I wanted to do it," Louwagie said. "I've always like science. It's something different than just regular science class."

Each group had to conduct three different speed tests with the mystery blood, which some students claim was food coloring and water.

"I liked splattering the blood at the paper," Miller said.

Using an eyedropper, droplets of blood were released at heights of five, 20 and 80 centimeters and the results were analyzed by everyone in the group.

"Ultimately, we want them to go back to the crime scene and figure out the blood pattern on the wall," Richardson said. "It can be determined with the speed test."

Armed with walkie-talkies and badges, Richardson and Wenker portrayed detectives working the scene and oversaw several detectives in training, including Jenna Stoutland, Courtney Deutz and Alyssa Louwagie.

"Coming from this direction caused the splatter to go that way," Richardson said. "Can you tell if it was medium or fast speed?"

Evidence showed that the victim was bludgeoned, and when he started to fall, he pulled a shelf over on top of himself.

The origami elective also drew a large number of students. Karen Cole, who used to be the librarian at HRS and is in her fourth year of retirement, still likes to substitute teach. Cole remembers the electives as fun, but educational classes over the years, though origami, like the class she was subbing for on March 4, proved to be more difficult than she imagined.

"We've had electives in computer, magic and cartoon blowups," she said. "I'm not very good at origami, but I enjoy being with the kids."

Rachel Bossuyt finished making her flower and took on the challenge of constructing a butterfly next.

"It's hard to do, but it's pretty fun," Bossuyt said.

Alex Thordson was having some difficulty with his flower.

"I messed up on each one of the petals so far," Thordson said. "It's hard."

Thordson said his favorite thing to make so far this year was the wreath made out of Time magazine pages.

In another classroom, nutrition was the focus. Under the direction of teacher Kim Louwagie and substitute teacher Kayla VanKeulen on March 4, students made tacos.

"The kids made the shells last week," VanKeulen said. "They mixed the flour and rolled them out in pie shapes. Then they froze them till this week."

Andrew Doyle was in a group with Jack Brown and Seth Cattoor. Doyle said that the class was a lot of fun.

"The best part is that you get to eat when you're in school," Doyle said. "It's fun. The hardest part was making the dough."

Deacon DeBoer said he really liked the class, too.

"I like cooking," DeBoer said. "We've made muffins and cookies and now tacos. The most difficult part if figuring out who was doing what in our groups."

The students followed recipes in each elective class and were also responsible for cleaning up their kitchen areas. The first class of the quarter was on safety. Six weeks later, the students will end the quarter by making pizza.

"Everyone loves to eat, so this is always a popular class," Kim Louwagie said. "Most of the kids have taken the elective by the time they're eighth-graders. We start with more simple things and then move on to more difficult concepts. They're good skills to learn."



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