College of Science and Engineering
Students take hands-on approach at SCSU Science Rocks event
Sunday, January 12, 2014
Science Rocks 2014
Students had the chance to dissect pig hearts, see an eagle first-hand and watch physics in action at a special event Wednesday at St. Cloud State University.
More than 700 middle school students from Central Minnesota descended onto campus to attend Science Rocks! sessions devoted to nature and science, taught by experts in their respective fields.
Jack Netland, a retired physics teacher, and Hank Ryan, also a retired teacher, are part of the University of Minnesota’s Physics Force, a K-12 outreach program. Netland and Ryan perform dozens of shows each year entertaining, teaching and hoping to spark a science interest in kids.
“Its important to us, to me, to try to help people understand that physics is OK,” said Netland, who’s been doing shows for 30 years.
He joked that if he introduced himself at a party as a physics teacher, people would become uninterested as soon as he said the word “physics.”
“We’re trying to dispel some of that,” said Netland.
He wants to ensure younger generations aren’t shying away from science-related study. Netland and Ryan mesmerized more than 50 students during several experiments in one session.
“There are no tricks in the show,” Ryan said as they started. “This is not magic whatsoever.”
“This is just what we call physics, and it’s just the way the world works.”
Students cheered when they shot smoke rings into the auditorium from a makeshift canon to demonstrate how air moves.
Students were surprised when the duo revealed an egg dropped into Rice Krispies, that had time to slow down, wouldn’t break. Whereas the egg dropped into an empty beaker broke on impact.
The two also took that moment to explain to kids why they must wear seat belts, unless they wanted to fill up their car with Rice Krispies before leaving home, they joked.
The duo also reviewed many experiments with a slow-motion video, so students could see exactly just how Netland was able to pull that tablecloth out from under a stack of plates and glasses.
“The whole idea is to introduce them to something new,” said Sandy Cordie, who coordinates programs for teachers and students for Resource Training and Solutions.
Kari Dombrovski teaches sixth-grade physical science at South Junior High in St. Cloud. More than 50 students from the school attended Science Rocks! Wednesday.
“One of the greatest benefits for our learners is to have that opportunity to hear from experts in the field,” Dombrovski said.
She said the opportunity to engage side-by-side with experts is invaluable for students.
Even though the topics may not have been discussed within Dombrovski’s classroom before Wednesday, she said many of her students found connections to prior lessons. She said it’s important for them to draw connections from real world and bring them back to the classroom.
Netland and Ryan taught four sessions Wednesday, and Netland said the sessions are “just plain fun” to lead.
“What are you doing, Jack?” a young boy exclaimed as Netland set up another demonstration.
But for the most part, the kids were all ears or all giggles.
By Marta Jewson, St. Cloud Times, Jan. 8, 2013