Teachers in training

College for Kids provides experience

Ella Brand, 11, left, and her sister, Aspen, 9, both of Ishpeming, work on a special mixture of milk, vinegar and food coloring to make plastic during Saturday’s College for Kids at the Seaborg Center. Other classes focused on cars and the forces that affect them, and making parachutes to keep eggs from cracking. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — To become a good elementary school teacher, sometimes you have to surround yourself with vinegar, lemons and food coloring.

Northern Michigan University students planning to enter that field took part in Saturday’s College for Kids at the NMU Seaborg Center. The programs are designed for youngsters in grades K-6.

Because the topics had to appeal to that age group, the classes were less about the Periodic Table of Elements than using everyday materials.

“Shell-cracker Egg-speriment” involved creating parachutes and other devices to keep an egg from cracking when dropped from different heights or slung from a catapult. “The Force and the Furious” was about designing and creating cars to learn about forces that work on them.

In “Creepy Chemistry,” students took part in unusual experiments, such as cleaning pennies with taco sauce.

Northern Michigan University senior Kristen Bergstrom creates a mixture out of milk, vinegar and food coloring during Saturday’s College for Kids at the Seaborg Center. She helped teach the “Creepy Chemistry” class. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

The first College for Kids sessions took place Sept. 30 at the Seaborg Center.

Renee Jewett, Seaborg Center program coordinator, said the programs basically are STEM enrichment classes — with STEM standing for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — taught by NMU teacher “pre-candidates,” or those studying to be elementary teachers.

“They’re close to their student teaching, so they’re practicing for the first time with students, hands on,” Jewett said. “They’ve never had to do this yet.”

The NMU students were paired up or in groups of three to teach their classes.

One of those classes was the “Egg-speriment” involving parachutes, which was geared for kindergartners and first-graders.

“I think it’s going to be messy, which is a great thing,” Jewett said.

Taylor Buck, a senior majoring in elementary education with a focus in social studies, was one of the session leaders.

“I hope to just to get a really good experience of, like, the full class set,” Buck said. “I’ve kind of had, like, a little bit of that, but usually one of the teachers is always in the room.”

She acknowledged being a little nervous.

“But we’re prepared,” Buck said. “There’s three of us in here.”

The class for second- and third-graders dealt with little vehicles.

“I know that they’re making cars, and the students are getting to choose, you know, different things to put on their car that would affect the force and the weight — different size wheels, if they had CDs and wooden spools, to change the sizes,” Jewett said.

Grades in grades four through sixth learned about “Creepy Chemistry.”

“It’s a little bit of a Halloween theme, which is perfect for this time of the year,” Jewett said.

So, the experiments had a holiday twist. That meant they had to be out of the ordinary.

That they were, with making elephant toothpaste on the agenda.

“Basically it’s just, with the chemical reaction, it makes a really thick, huge-looking toothpaste, like you would need with elephants,” Jewett said.

Materials also were set out to make lemon volcanoes.

The students were to squish lemons, after which a teacher would cut them. The students then had to crush the soft part of the lemons and add three drops of food coloring, a dime-sized amount of dish soap and a spoonful of baking soda. The reward was stirring the fizz that would result.

However, a main focus of the session, along with the other two classes, was allowing the NMU students to gain teaching experience. In “Creepy Chemistry,” they solicited feedback from the youngsters, but also had to get their attention.

Keep in mind they weren’t dealing with college-age students.

When attention was needed, a teacher would say: “Captain aboard!” followed by the kids responding: “Aye, aye, Captain.”

The chemistry session involved the students being asked to give examples of various states of matter. They also were instructed to develop a hypothesis, make a plan and follow through, and observe. Safety also was of utmost importance, with goggles and gloves worn throughout the activities.

Their first experiment was making plastic out of milk, vinegar and food coloring. Kristen Bergstrom, a senior majoring in elementary special education, created the mixture, but the students flattened out balls from that mixture, using lots of paper towels in the process.

They were to take those home and let them dry for two days before they became “plasticized.”

Ella Brand, 11, and her sister, Aspen, 9, both of Ishpeming, participated in the chemistry activities.

“I like doing experiments,” Ella said. “I never liked the writing part of it.”

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.