Learning science from the pros

AUSTIN, Minn. — Students in Austin are just down the road from a place known for their cancer research and Tuesday seventh and eighth graders at Ellis Middle School were able to work side-by-side with some of the researchers.

It was not a typical day of class for students at Ellis. They had visitors from the Hormel Institute.

“He brought us some things to use so we can understand how they work and what’s the structure of them and how we can start to use them in class,” said 8th Grade Student Jesse Alejo.

They learned with some of the more advanced technology out there.

“I learned this new dropper thing. I didn’t know what it was, but it’s pretty cool,” said 8th Grade Student Kayli Gonzalez.

They used the droppers for exercises in transferring liquids and they also worked with scales.

“We had some wheat pennies and some Lincoln pennies. They weigh slightly different so we had different kinds of balances here and this is a four-plates balance so basically you could see that the pennies look like they weigh the same with some of the older balances but for this new one you could tell that there was a difference between the two pennies,” said Todd Schuster, a Senior Lab Technician at the Hormel Institute.

Schuster is not used to working with seventh and eighth grade students, but he said it was a good change of pace.

“There’s a lot of energy here but they had a lot of good questions and they seem to be mostly trying to do the exercise right,” Schuster said.

While they may not know their plans for the future yet, the students received great insight on what one path could be.

“I like learning new things, especially when it’s hands-on,” Alejo said.

“It’s pretty nice, someone taking their time and coming to talk to us and telling us how to do this,” Gonzalez said.

The seventh graders took part in presentations about cell biology, technology and careers in the science field. The institute also hosts sixth-grade students for a tour of the facility each year. They also act as judges for local science fairs.

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