New England students learn with hands-on experiments

When people hear the name Bayer, most think about the commercials advertising little white aspirin pills that if taken during early symptoms, can help with heart attacks. But Bayer is much larger than the little white pills.

Southwest Agronomy Manager John LeMieux helps Leah Ehlis and her table pour water for an experiment. The students performed five experiments on the day as Bayer CropScience brought its 'Making Science, Make Sense' program to New England.
Southwest Agronomy Manager John LeMieux helps Leah Ehlis and her table pour water for an experiment. The students performed five experiments on the day as Bayer CropScience brought its ‘Making Science, Make Sense’ program to New England.

Posted September 26, 2014

By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor | cbenz@countrymedia.net

When people hear the name Bayer, most think about the commercials advertising little white aspirin pills that if taken during early symptoms, can help with heart attacks. But Bayer is much larger than the little white pills.

Part of that larger pictures is a subgroup called Bayer CropScience. According to its website, Bayer CropScience was launched as the first legally independent Bayer subgroup. They provide crop protection products, seeds, traits and pioneering environmental solutions, accruing to bayercropscience.com.

But what Bayer CropScience also does, is an initiative called ‘Making Science Make Sense.’

This initiative is in its 19th year and focuses around getting children interested in the sciences.

“Research shows that if you don’t keep kids interested in science after the third grade, you’ll start losing them,” said Mike Hillstrom, Sales Rep of Southwest North Dakota for Bayer CropScience. “And obviously in our industry now we have a shortage of people and we need to create interest at a young age to try and get more people involved.”

The initiative is all volunteer based through the company.

Stopping in North Dakota for the first time in its program history, New England had the benefit of being the first of four stops in the state. The program also made stops in Taylor, Dickinson and Killdeer.

So what does the program do with the students?

“It’s an initiative to advance science literacy across the U.S.,” Hillstrom said. “It’s basically hands-on, inquiry based science learning.”

During the stop in New England, five instructors assisted two groups of students. Each of the two groups went through five different experiments that showcased different types of scientific processes. They used items found throughout a household to perform the experiments, this gave the students a better connection with the items they were working with.

The first experiment represented surface tension and involved using pepper you’d find at the dinner table, and also dish soap used to hand wash dishes at the kitchen sink.

There was an experiment about carbon dioxide, and one which used pieces of coffee filters to display chromatography, or the movement or separation of things.

But the highlight of the day was an experiment used to demonstrate the characteristics of polymers. Using a combination of Elmer’s Glue, water, and a Borax solution, the students made their own wiggly compositions.

So how did North Dakota get the program?

Southwest Grain and John Lemeiux were a big part of the partnership, according to Hillstrom.

“They are looking for ways to encourage interest,” Hillstrom said.

According to LeMeiux, who is the Agronomy Manager with Southwest Grain, they have been planning this event for about four to five months and they were talking about ways to generate interest.

Russell Jones, employed by Bayer CropScience with Research Triangle Park Group, led the two sessions.

“I enjoy the enthusiasm that they have, it’s really nice,” Jones said. “They seem to have a good time and I have a good time.”

New England teacher Lori Fitterer thought that being engaged with people from the two companies benefited the students, because of the close work they get with the instructors.

“Having somebody come from the Bayer company and Southwest Grain is really neat, because the kids see some action,” Fitterer said. “We love to do the hands on stuff.”

The students seemed to enjoy their time with the science experiment.

“I had a lot of fun today, it’s a good experiment,” said 5th-grader Ace Fischer. “That’s the funnest part of it, is the hands on.”

The excitement was heavily on display as the students showed each other their creations.

Behind this initiative was the hope that interest in science would increase with the young students, and for at least a little time in the morning, the students were definitely engaged and interested.

And perhaps this short time period will catch the interest of just one student, and they’ll follow a path that leads to work in the field of science.

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