SWC Science Instructors Show Science Can be Fun

May 15th, 2009 | By | Category: 20-4: Tribal College Leadership and Vision, Tribal College News

DINOSAUR EGGS. Students at Tiospa Zina Tribal School learned that science can be fun when they excavated dinosaur eggs. Photo courtesy of Pam Wynia

The Science Department at Sisseton Wahpeton College (SWC, Sisseton, SD) collaborates with two local tribal schools (Enemy Swim Day School, a K-8 school, and Tiospa Zina Tribal School, a K-12 school) to demonstrate that science can be interesting and fun.

Once per month, faculty member Tim Wilkie and science director Karla Witt and about 15 SWC students engage tribal youth in age-appropriate science experiments. The tribal college students enjoy helping the younger students with their experiments and serve as role models as well.

Students especially enjoy “The Cool Blue Light,” which utilizes chemi-luminescence and shows the chemical reactions that light up lightning bugs and fireflies. By mixing a few ingredients together, the students get a luminescent solution. Another favorite for students is a chemistry experiment that makes rubber balls, rubber stamps, and rubber dinosaurs from a natural substance. Other chemistry experiments involve edible substances; the students enjoy making fizzing beverages and pudding.

The students also do activities that involve insects and excavation. According to SWC science director Witt, “At Tiospa Zina when the theme was Indiana Jones, we had them excavate dinosaur eggs, and they were so into it that some of them sat there all evening to work on their egg. They had a small chisel and a small brush like archeologists would use. What they got from it was how delicate the bones were. If they got the bones out without damaging them, they could glue them together and have a good model.” Students receive t-shirts and other prizes for participation and competitive activities.

SWC students benefit from the program as do the tribal youth. A SWC student volunteered to assist with the program even though he is majoring in business at SWC: Scott Brave Bull says he enjoyed working with and being a role model for the youth in the community. This program has helped him realize that, “Science really seems technical and complicated, but when doing the hands-on activities, it is interesting and not as complex and intimidating.” The program is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program.

For information, visit www.swc.tc or contact Pam Wynia, director of development at Sisseton Wahpeton College, by phone (605) 698-3966 or email pwynia@swc.tc.

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