MARSHALL - More than 1,000 curious students had the opportunity to learn about and try new things - like practicing sutures on a beef tongue, tracking killer storms, shooting off rockets, being a veterinarian or thinking like an inventor - at the 18th annual Science and Nature Conference Friday on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University.
"I think we're right around 1,440 participants, which is our largest ever," said Sue Gorecki, student activities coordinator at Southwest/West Central Service Cooperative, which sponsored the event. "It's big. And, there are some really neat sessions."
Each of the students, kindergarten through eighth-grade, took part in three of the 36 available sessions. The youngsters represented 25 different school districts, including Marshall Public, Marshall Area Christian, Murray County Central, Dawson-Boyd, Canby, Minneota Elementary, St. Edward in Minneota, Lakeview, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton, E.C.H.O. Charter, Hendricks, Wabasso and Yellow Medicine East.
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Marshall Area Christian School student Olivia Knochenmous, left, concentrates as she practices stitching on a beef tongue as Avera Marshall doctor Rochelle Stark hands a needle driver to Marshall Middle School student Logan Tomasek so he can also try different methods of closing up a wound while at the 18th annual Science and Nature Conference Friday at Southwest Minnesota State University.
"It's fun," Marshall Middle School student Mariah Anderson said.
Anderson volunteered during Jerry Wenzel's science magic session and learned what it was like to be vacuum-packed inside of a large garbage bag.
"It gets kind of tight in there," she said.
Wenzel demonstrated a number of crowd-pleasing tricks.
"I haven't been in there, but I can hear the kids laughing and having a great time," Gorecki said.
The "Emergency" session provided by Avera Marshall was not for the squeamish, and gave brave students a chance to try out some medical practices.
"We're going to make some doctors and nurses out of you today," said Erin Muck, Avera trauma coordinator. "You're going to see some cool medical things. Maybe you'll be taking care of me someday."
Students broke up into four different groups, allowing more hands-on time for everyone.
"That was weird," Marshall Area Christian School sixth-grader Olivia Knochenmous said after shoving a chest tube through pork ribs. "It like pops. It feels like it's slimy, but you have gloves on."
Doctor Michael Schneider said he enjoys introducing medical techniques to young children.
"That way it's not gross," he said. "It takes away the fear, too. If someone is hurting, you have to do what you have to do to help them."
MMS student Kevin Berg and Benson's Samantha Herman thought they might like to be doctors some day. Knochenmous isn't sure if she wants to become a doctor, but she decided to try the session out because it "sounded fun."
"I thought I'd try it," she said.
After putting in a few staples, Knochenmous tried her hand at suturing a gash on a beef tongue and quickly got the hang of it. MMS student Logan Tomasek said he enjoyed the experience.
"The best part was stitching," Tomasek said. "The hardest part was un-attaching (the needle driver)."
Students also learned how to fill a syringe and give an injection on an orange, shock a heart attack patient, start an intravenous line and administer an intraosseous infusion. Not everyone had the stomach for the difficult procedures, though.
"It's disgusting," Lakeview student Emily Beck said.
Beck did enjoy her first session, however.
"It was about being a veterinarian," she said. "It was good. We learned how to check a dog."
Keynote speakers Terri Lawrenz and Todd Magnuson, from South Dakota Public Broadcasting, were also a hit with students.
"They're used to doing live shows all the time," Gorecki said. "They're on TV. They did something on reptiles and had turkeys, lizards and snakes. The kids were all excited."
In the "Kitchen Detectives" session,
Marilyn Schoolmeester gave students the opportunity to see what happens when you put four drops of different colored food coloring in the middle of a paper plate filled with whole milk and then swirl a Q-tip, dipped in Dawn dish soap, in the middle of the colors.
"It's fun to do," Schoolmeester said. "The students can make some great designs."
Ella Bot, a first-grader from St. Edward, smiled from ear to ear when her food coloring began to spread into a unique creation in front of her.
MCC second-grader Elle Lupkes was excited to learn about whales during the "A Whale in Our Neighborhood" session with presenter Chrystal Dunker, executive director of the Prairie Ecology Bus Center, but didn't realize that she'd actually be going inside of a 70-foot inflatable blue whale replica.
"I've never been inside of a whale before," Lupkes said. "I got a little scared that it was going to deflate. It was flapping around because somebody was touching it."
Students learned about whales, including the fact that adult blue whales can stretch over 100-feet long, and heard different whale sounds.
"I was sitting in the whale's mouth," RTR kindergartner Sophie Sorenson said.
Afterward, Sorenson and RTR second-grader Isabelle Cordes helped Dunker hold up an enormous rib bone belonging to a blue whale.
"I had a good time," Cordes said.
Dunker also presented a session called "Grossology."
"At the end, we dare the students to eat mealworms," she said. "We usually have some takers."