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Despite tight budget, science staff forges ahead

Tight budgets won't erode the quality of science education in the Perham schools-not if a determined crew of science faculty has anything to say about it.

Science initiatives are in place from the elementary school to the upper grades, as outlined by nine of the science staff who reported to the Perham-Dent School Board Dec. 16.

Money is an issue, but grants and donations from school supporters have helped sustain science, and other school programs.

"Science is being pushed hard by the state and federal education departments because it is such an important part of our future," said high school principal John Rutten in an interview. "The more we give kids these kinds of experiences, the more we help them find a niche and make them literate and employable in the sciences."

Pharmacy donation helps save advanced chemistry classes

College-level chemistry courses will be saved, for at least another year, thanks in part to a local donation. Seip Drug is conducting an ongoing program where customers fill a prescription card. For each filled card, Seip donates to public schools. For Perham, this translated into a $1,000 donation-with the prospect of more, since the program is on-going.

"This is perfect," said pharmacist and owner Nathan Seip. "Chemistry fits in well with pharmacy. And we were concerned that Perham was in danger of losing the college-level chemistry."

Each college-level course costs the school about $1,500, so the Seip donation of $1,000 will help save the class for next year, said Perham Superintendent Tamara Uselman.

Grant brings PHS into robotics competition

Exciting new grants totalling $6,500 have been awarded to enable Perham High School students to compete in the "U.S. First Robotics" program. They will be building robots and competing regionally, and potentially nationally, with other schools, said Rutten.

Agri-science benefits from grant

In the agriculture science department, teacher Carl Aakre has received a $6,000 grant from a Minnesota agriculture educator group. The money will purchase two laptop computers, probes and other data-collecting equipment for use in experiments.

The robotics grants were from Pentaire and the Dean Kamen Foundation.

A new science emphasis in K-8

A cornerstone of the science education programs is a special curriculum for K-8 grade called "Seela Science."

Hands-on experience with science concepts and problems is the thrust, as explained by elementary and middle school staff Mike Jordahl, Danya Dahlin, Darla Guehna and Paul Belka.

"It's a very active process," said Jordahl. Short videos of excited students engaging in the experiments and activities were shown at the school board meeting. "Hands-on is the best way to learn and retain."

Science can be intimidating to young students-but it can also "be scary to teach," said Belka. But the Seela curriculum makes science user-friendly to both students and teachers.

State increases science ­­standards

In the high school, faculty is realigning curriculum to meet the new state standards, reported faculty members Kevin Scheidecker, Sue Tostenson and Shawn Stafki.

For example, the state now requires grade 9-12 students to take chemistry and physics. Earth science is also now taught in high school.

The high school science staff is also offering a more hands-on learning opportunities.

School board member Mike Hamann commended the Perham science department for the initiatives.

"The great thing about hands-on activities is that kids learn to like the sciences at a young they're not afraid of it as they continue in school," said Hamann. "They see it as an activity, not just science."

The Perham faculty agrees. "Students can't wait to see what's going to happen the next day in science class," said one of the teachers of the new-found student enthusiasm for science.