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Students Learn About Ice

Keweenaw Peninsula 2nd graders are engaging in STEM activities while learning basic science fundamentals through a Michigan Tech educational outreach program. Students from Hancock’s Barkell Elementary took a field trip to conduct a winter experiment where the class learned to alter the melting point of ice.

Snow and ice are just a part of life in the Upper Peninsula and with an area that has so much of it, it’s important for the people who live here to understand some basic properties. 

2nd Grade Barkell Elementary teacher, Genevieve Nordmark said, “Our students are learning about matter while exploring snow and ice. We set up an experiment to determine what might melt ice the fastest—whether it is just ice sitting outside, ice wrapped in newspapers or ice covered in salt.”

The students took a hike through the winter trail at the Nara Nature Center, as well as participated in some hands on activities inside. “This program allows roughly 4,000 students in the Western Upper Peninsula to experience the outdoors and to learn science in the outdoors,” said Joan Chadde, Michigan Tech’s Director for Science and Environmental Outreach.

This lesson teaches students how to manipulate the melting point of ice—an important piece of knowledge where ice can build up on sidewalks or roads. “At first, a lot of the students thought that the newspaper would melt it faster because it would keep it cozy, but then after watching the salt as they just passed it around, it already started to melt the ice and they all changed their minds,” said Nordmark.

“And then everyone saw that the salt melted first because he was teaching us that salt is a chemical,” said 2nd grader Isha.

This field trip is one of several that are held each year by Michigan Tech’s Science and Environmental Outreach program and teaches students by using fun and memorable experiences as learning tools.

Nordmark said, “Second graders are very inquisitive. They really absorb learning through action. They need to be moving, they need to be seeing things in person. They need to get out there and see science and explore it.”

Chadde said, “They like to be outdoors and it really enhances their appreciation of the natural world, and it’s something they can take home and share.”

In an area where sportsmanship is every where, understanding ice conditions can be essential to survival and learning these things at a young age can be life saving.

“This is a wonderful program that we hope continues for years to come. My class typically does all three seasons of the science explorations. They are fabulous programs.  They really help our students to learn their science concepts,” said Nordmark.

“I like it because we get to learn about science and we get to find cool stuff in the forest,” said 2nd grader Silace.

Much of the program’s funding comes from contributions and strong community support. “We are super excited to have received a $20,000 grant from the Wege Foundation this year to continue the program,” said Chadde.

More information about the outdoor science investigations field trip program can be found at www.mtu.edu.

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