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Northview Students Build Catapults, Kaleidoscopes During STEM Workshop

"The Works on Wheels", a STEM outreach program, brought its hands-on science and technology experiments to Northview Elementary School in January.

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The glee on fourth-grader Tristan Thomas' face was evident on Wednesday morning as he fiddled with the battery-powered fan that he made using paper clips, wires, tape and a small motor.

"When I grow up, I want to be a rocket scientist," Thomas declared. "I’m just really interested in this type of science stuff, and how the electricity flows through [the fan] and how the conclusion is always something really cool happening."

Thomas' handmade fan was the product of a hands-on science workshop held at Northview Elementary School in Eagan. Called "The Works on Wheels", the outreach program is produced by "The Works", a nonprofit, hands-on science museum located in Bloomington.

For the last two weeks, engineers from The Works have led Northview students as they created catapults, kaleidoscopes, circuits, fans and other projects. The program, held the last two years at Northview, fits with the school's keen focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curricula.

“It’s an experience that they won't get in the normal classroom," said Grant Gilbertson, a fifth-grade teacher whose students constructed catapults in class earlier this month as part of the program. "Some of the kids don’t have the opportunity to go to a museum, and when [The Works] come here, they get to do that, and it’s a really cool thing."

The program, which cost $2,500, was paid for by Northview Elementary's PTO, Northview Principal Kathy Carl said. Recognizing the growing importance of STEM education, the school's PTO also provided school officials with funding for a dedicated STEM room equipped with science kits and other tools.

Karl believe that a strong STEM education will help prepare students for career opportunities in quickly-evolving technology fields.

"We know a lot of jobs are going to be in the science and math technology areas for our kids," Carl said. "We want more and more students to have advanced math, science, biology, medical and engineering careers."

But even for students like Julia Peterson, a fourth-grader who wants to be a teacher, writer or librarian when she grows up, the Wednesday workshop was something out of the ordinary.

"This is sort unique, because in science, we’re learning about sound and light, but we don’t get to do many hands-on things," Peterson said.

Taking apart the motor for her electric fan was particularly fascinating, Peterson added.

“You got to see what was inside, and it’s really fun to see what was inside because I like building things," Peterson said.

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