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WHS receives equipment for agriscience education

Taking part in the SIREN donation are SWROC program coordinator Pauline Nickel, from left, WHS ag teacher Cody Dvorak, SIREN teacher Dan Livdahl, SWROC K-12 education specialist Ken Kraemer, SIREN teacher Rolf Mahlberg and Minnesota Soybean Growers Association board members Matt Widboom and Bill Gordon.

WORTHINGTON -- The University of Minnesota's Southwest Research and Outreach Center at Lamberton recently presented new experimental equipment -- including a balance, pH meter and other items -- to the Worthington High School agriculture department.

Students in the WHS agriscience class participate in the Sustainable Inquiry Research and Education Network (SIREN) program, funded by the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council. The program trains K-12 teachers and provides them with curriculum and teaching materials to incorporate in their classrooms.

SIREN integrates experimental teaching strategies into sustainable agriculture projects designed by farmers and experienced scientists. The program offers science and agriculture teachers the opportunity to work with area producers, connect with scientists, attend workshops and increase understanding of the inquiry process.

SWROC program coordinator Pauline Nickel applauded program supporters, saying, "Minnesota Soybean is a huge contributor to this program, and it's vital to recognize the farmers who support this project through the soybean checkoff. We wouldn't be able to do what we do without their dedication to our education system."

Rural Worthington soybean farmers Bill Gordon and Matt Widboom presented the new equipment to ag teacher Cody Dvorak and his agriscience students.

"It all starts here in the classroom," said Gordon. "Agriculture is science -- we wouldn't be able to feed the world without the technologies we learned from agriscience."

Minnesota farmers have long been committed to improving the quality of the state's education system, making it a priority in many communities. Today, there are fewer students pursuing science-based fields of study. Without igniting a spark of interest early on, engaging students in these fields becomes more difficult.

SWROC delivers K-12 educational programing statewide. The purpose is to support a strong science program with an emphasis on content areas that are vital to rural communities. These programs are aligned with the Minnesota Graduation Standards and support classroom teachers with curriculum resources designed to improve student knowledge about science and related disciplines.

Nickel said the focus of SIREN is to support teachers and ensure they are equipped with knowledge and materials when entering the classroom.

"Our goal is to connect the teachers with the University of Minnesota's resources to create better learning opportunities for our students," she said.

SIREN has been implemented in three other schools across southwest Minnesota and will serve as a pilot program to develop hands-on based curriculum for students across the state.

The Nobles County Corn and Soybean Growers Association is affiliated with the MSR&PC, a non-profit organization lead by a board of elected soybean producers from across the state who direct the investments of the state's soybean checkoff dollars into programs designed to increase the profitability of Minnesota's soybean farmers.