LCS receives lab equipment

LAFAYETTE – Lafayette Charter School (LCS) officials say students are excited to work on projects thanks to a scientific lab equipment donation and training they received at the University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center (SWROC) near Lamberton.

“It’s fun to see student enthusiasm for doing experiments and recording data in our greenhouse projects,” said LCS Lead Teacher Andrea Harder. “It’s been a great opportunity to add to our science and agriculture curriculum. We get great training and support from SWROC.”

“It’s a really good feeling to be able to work with this wealth of information,” said LCS Agriculture instructor Heather Winkelmann.

The teachers attended workshops for science and vocational agriculture teachers over four years in the Sustainable Inquiry Research and Education Network (SIREN) near Lamberton.

The program’s interaction with teachers raised awareness that there is a great need for classroom science equipment to teach a variety of advanced science lessons, according to SWROC K-12 Education Specialist Ken Kraemer.

With teacher input, plant nutrition lessons and classroom experiments were created. Teacher workshops involved designing hydroponics labs (growing plants in water), engaging students in hands-on experiments and observations involving lab data gathering, interpretation and summary.

“These are educators on the grow,” Kraemer said. “They were willing to put in the extra time to get experiences for several years, then bring them back to the classroom in Lafayette.”

Agriculture projects done by students at the school included growing tomatoes, pansies, measuring soil ph and hydroponics.

Pauline Nickel, SWROC Head, said her organization does lots of research in agriculture education.

“Through that, teachers and students can understand the amount of science related to agriculture. It’s a very big business,” Nickel said.

Other schools taking part in the SIREN program were Wabasso, Westbrook-Walnut Grove and Worthington/Minnesota West Community College.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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