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Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny
Marisol Limonez, left, and Spencer Mortensen use the LabQuest 2 to take the soil temperature Friday outside the RCW School in Renville.
Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny Marisol Limonez, left, and Spencer Mortensen use the LabQuest 2 to take the soil temperature Friday outside the RCW School in Renville.

RCW Foundation focuses first gift on lab devices for science dept.

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news Willmar, 56201

Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

By Tom Cherveny

RENVILLE — We all know that spring has been slow to arrive, but nobody knows better than the earth science students at Renville County West.

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All spring, they’ve been poking the grounds outside of the Renville County West School with a Star Trek-like device that records and graphs the soil temperature.

Instantaneously, iPads held by students in the classroom light up with the temperature data and trend graphs produced by the device known as a LabQuest2.

“Much more engaged,” is how eighth-grade earth science instructor Amanda Peterson describes her students’ study of meteorology thanks to the technology.

Six copies of the LabQuest2 device represent the first donation by the RCW Foundation to the school’s academic programs.

This is only the start, according to Greg Mulder, chairman of the nonprofit organization. Created less than two years ago, its mission is to support the academic programs in the district.

“(We will) do those things for the classroom that normally the school budget cannot fund,” said Mulder.

Science department instructors Peterson, Brenda Holm and Phil Skinner were the first to jump at the chance to apply for Foundation funds to purchase the new devices. They can be used in all kinds of ways, from monitoring the rapid drumbeat of their own hearts to the sluggish arrival of spring.

Students love the gee-whiz technology, of course, and it really helps students learn the fundamentals of the scientific process, the teachers said. The earth science students are studying meteorology and discussing climate change, making this the perfect opportunity to emphasize the importance of gathering hard data, Peterson said.

The high-tech gadgetry also allows students to discover how much fun science can be, she said. She encourages her students to consider careers in science.

That effort got a big boost on Friday when WCCO-TV meteorologist Lauren Casey spoke to the class. Peterson had invited the meteorologist to come to help her in teaching the subject to the students.

Casey was peppered with questions from the students, not all of them easy.

 “How do you think our summer will be since we had such a cold winter?” is what eighth-grader Emma Rice wanted to know.

Other questions could be answered with precision. Two and a half minutes, not a second more, is how much time a TV meteorologist gets to tell the day’s weather story and forecast.

Casey presented the district with a meteorological station that students can use to continue tracking and learning about the weather and climate.

Her presence also gave the students an opportunity to see the types of careers possible in science. And, it let the girls know that science is for them as much as it is for boys. Casey let them know about her educational background and her enjoyment of science.

The RCW Foundation wants to give all of the students attending the district the best possible academic opportunities possible, so they can pursue the careers of their dreams. Mulder said the Foundation is appealing to alumni and others to help them build an endowment to make it all possible.

The endowment fund is managed for the Foundation by the Southwest Minnesota Initiative Fund.

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