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Area students get a taste of careers in science fields

Ana Anthony/Daily Globe Luverne students Scott Nelson (left) and Jordan Stegenga work with a sheep heart during a lab session at Minnesota West in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- For the fourth year now, several community entities have collaborated to provide high school students an opportunity to explore science-related fields.

In conjunction with the eighth annual Regional Biosciences Conference that begins today, 90 high school juniors from area schools congregated in Worthington on Wednesday for five lab sessions -- more commonly referred to as Junior Lab Day.

Junior Lab Day is a joint effort of Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington High School and Worthington Regional Economic Development Corporation (WREDC).

"We specifically targeted juniors because they have some time left to decide what they want to do after high school," said Minnesota West, Worthington campus, marketer Marie Johnson. "We want to show them the different aspects involved in bioscience and get them interested in science careers."

Students came from as far as Redwood Falls and Luverne for the lab experiments. School districts represented were: Luverne, Adrian, Worthington, Round Lake-Brewster, Jackson County Central and Redwood Falls.

The students were divided into smaller groups and rotated every hour from one lab to the next.

Worthington High School hosted three sessions, while the college accommodated two.

WREDC manager Glenn Thuringer stressed the importance of creating science exposure at the secondary education level.

"The middle school science club does a great job, but we wanted to do a project that complements it," he said. "We also wanted to get more than just the Worthington students involved, so this was a great opportunity to have a regional basis."

During a morning session at Minnesota West titled "Are You Sheepish at Heart?" a group of 15 students traced a blood path using a sheep's heart. South Dakota State University instructors Brie Murphy and Jess Mediger led them in a discussion of blood types, hemoglobin levels and the effects of mixing various solutions with sheep blood.

Toward the end of the hour-long lab activity, Murphy and Mediger spent some time asking each student about his or her career path.

"There's definitely more curiosity from high school kids because the topics are new for them now," Mediger said about the difference in teaching a college class and a high school class. "I like working with both age groups though."

For Adrian high-schooler Samantha Croat, Wednesday's event was great fit. Croat aspires to be an agronomist.

"I grew up on a farm, and I want to stay on a farm," Croat said.

After attending two morning lab sessions, Croat was particularly keen about "Are You Sheepish at Heart?" because of the hands-on opportunity given to students.

"I definitely feel that I learn more," she said. "It was an interesting lab."

At the high school, Renee Krohne, an instructor at South Central College, introduced students to the study of diseases.

Through an activity involving sample testing, students had to identify which individual was infected first.

In the chemistry lab, juniors worked with yeast and sugar to produce ethanol and carbon dioxide.

Other lab activities included a post-mortem dissection of a hog and an experiment comparing natural and artificial coloring in food.

Daily Globe Reporter Ana Anthony can be reached at 376-7321.