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Volunteers show sixth-graders wonders of science

Staff Photos: Jonathan Phillips. Travon Redditt, left, Jaimee Cllum and Elias Jurado look at a dry ice experiment with their classmates at Radloff Middle School on Thursday. Volunteers from Siemens came to the school teaching students real world science through the business' leadership development program. Volunteers were also at Sweetwater Middle School.

Staff Photos: Jonathan Phillips. Travon Redditt, left, Jaimee Cllum and Elias Jurado look at a dry ice experiment with their classmates at Radloff Middle School on Thursday. Volunteers from Siemens came to the school teaching students real world science through the business' leadership development program. Volunteers were also at Sweetwater Middle School.

DULUTH -- When Cole Scott asked a class of sixth-graders Thursday if chairs grew in the forest, he was greeted by a few snickers.

But by the end of the lesson, the kids were amazed at what science can do.

"Somebody had to think of it, and somebody had to create it," he said of the chair, relating it to the job of an engineer, as he and dozens of other volunteers from Siemens Industries visited Radloff Middle School Thursday.

In that classroom, a dry ice experiment left kids mesmerized.

"That looks like a scientist thing," one student said as the dry ice bubbled and smoked.

"It's been really great for them to see this is what you can do with science," teacher Chrissy Krejci said as students made windmills in her eighth-grade class.

Dylan Gordon started out one group by asking the students how they thought a windmill would work. The timid students were slow to grab scissors and begin, but Gordon pointed out that no answer was wrong.

"You see what works and what doesn't work and you can try again," he said.

That's what engineering is all about, the 40 young professionals told kids throughout the school. Another 40 visited Sweetwater Middle.

Ethnically diverse with many economically disadvantaged kids, Radloff Middle is one of the county's Title I schools. While many of the kids struggle with English classes as they are just mastering the language, assistant principal Mark Montello said the students excel in math, a more universal language.

Most, he said, would be the first in their family to go to college, so finding that spark young is important.

For Ali Ali, who coordinated the volunteer effort for Siemens, math was once a struggle.

Now an engineer, he remembers his sister's encouragement helping him get through middle school, and he hopes the members of his team can be that for one of Radloff's students.

"You always need somebody to push you and show this is actually applicable in the real world," Ali said.

After Thursday's lesson, Krejci said some of her students learned what an engineer does and decided that maybe they would try for that profession.

"You know they are talking about it and getting it," she said. "In here, it means so much more for them to be able to (physically) do it."