Program assists teachers in adding interest to science

by Jessica Kimpell

Because Sally Jorgensen was dissatisfied with the way science was taught in the classroom, the retired associate dean of the College of Biological Sciences is working to change the norm.
With a background as scientist and administrator, Jorgensen volunteers with Science Works. The program brings hands-on science to Minneapolis public-school students.
“Science Works is a systematic effort to change the way science is taught,” Jorgensen said.
The program provides science kits to teachers and encourages them to use the materials to conduct experiments, she said.
“Kids are more motivated to think and answer questions when they are involved in a hands-on experience, as opposed to reading out of a textbook,” Jorgensen added.
By volunteering for “hours and hours,” Jorgensen has organized the distribution of the kits, said Susan Henderson, director of the University’s College in the Schools. “She has helped the centers operate more efficiently even when the demand for the kits has gone up because of the success of the program.”
Jorgensen said more than 5,000 kits have been delivered to teachers. Because the science centers had difficulty tracking them, she created a program to monitor the flow.
Along with tracking the kits, Jorgensen “does everything from testing batteries to lobbying the school board to driving around town buying Rubbermaid tubs for the science kits,” Jorgensen said.
Benefits of the Science Works program can be seen even at the University level.
“Educators know that the way science is taught is important, even in grade school, if they want students to pursue science in college,” Henderson said. “Research shows that students can be turned off from science as early as the third or fourth grade.”
Through the Science Works program, University faculty and graduate students sometimes help teachers conduct the experiments, Jorgensen said.
Science is not always “easily understood because of the abstract concepts,” said Sam Lochner, a College of Biological Sciences junior, “But when things are brought to life in experiments, it makes science more interesting.”
The Science Works program operates on a $5 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation.
The program helps science teachers “know the way science should be taught,” said Jorgensen said.

Jessica Kimpell welcomes comments at [email protected]. She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3231.