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School board gets hands-on look at student circuit project

Park Rapids Area Schools Superintendent Lance Bagstad and school board members Sherry Safratowich, Gary Gauldin, Steph Carlson, superintendent secretary Brenda Kent, Karol Savage, Dennis Dodge and business manager Carol Hutchinson try out a student circuit quiz. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

By Anna Erickson

Sixth grade students are learning about electricity through a hands-on circuit board project.

With a greater emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in education, sixth grade teacher Carol Sievers has developed a project that falls into this category. And the students love it.

Sievers talked about the project at Monday night’s school board meeting, with board members getting a chance to take a quiz.

The original idea for the project was not hers, she emphasized, but she has tweaked the curriculum over the years.

Students choose a topic and come up with questions. They create a multiple choice board with questions and the correct answer connected through a wire. When the correct answer is touched with the wire, a bulb lights up.

Students have picked a variety of topics from Native American or Finnish history to volleyball.

“How do you say ‘no’ in Ojibwe? How do you say ‘thank you?’ are some examples,” Sievers said.

Others include questions about world records, including “How big is the largest gingerbread man?”

She teaches students about the flow of electrons and when a circuit opens and closes.

“As we study electricity, we look at, what exactly is electricity, knowing it’s so vital in our lives,” Sievers said. “I hear more and more on the news about the importance of science, math.”

One of the best parts of the project is that it’s hands-on and personal for each student. It also involves math, with the cutting of wires to a certain length, she said.

Students also learn about patience and kindness during the project.

Fifth-graders are invited to the sixth-grade classroom to take the quizzes. The sixth-graders learn to accept that their younger friends won’t know all the answers but they are OK with that.

Sievers also added on a writing component where students have to answer, “How is it that your circuit board works? How is it that you can get your board to light up? How is it that a circuit is a circle of electricity?

“This activity, it just flourishes with kids,” Sievers said. “You just walk into the room, into the lab and they’re just engrossed in it. The vast majority of them love it because they have ownership in it.”

In other business, the board:

n Heard from Superintendent Lance Bagstad that the Alternative Learning Center is officially approved by the state.

“I got the letter today,” he said. “We hope to make a positive impact on our students.”

n Heard that Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) testing began Tuesday at Century. Students will be tested on reading, math and science.

n Received an update on the high school registration catalog for the 2013-14 school year.

Assistant Principal and Activities Director John Schumacher said he and Principal Jeff Johnson have been working on changes to courses for next year.

Some classes in physical education are being re-named to market better for students. There will be no elective courses in language arts next year.

School board member Gary Gauldin said there used to be many more elective offerings for students and it’s unfortunate. He blames state and federal requirements.

n Approved the placement of Scott Petrowski, Susan Cassidy and Stacey Klinkhammer on Unrequested Leave of Absence due to financial limitations at the end of the 2012-13 school year.

n Approved hiring Denny Sleen and Kim Schwartz as middle school softball co-coaches and hiring Eric Hillesland as middle school track coach.

n Accepted a donation of $1,000 from the PTA to the 5th-8th grade C’Motion program.

n Heard the PTA earned $150 toward Apple Apps for teachers at the Cabin Fever Reliever concession stand.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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