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RCW students benefit from donated monitors

Renville County West science teacher Brenda Holm, center, attaches leads to the arm of sophomore Morgan Elliot, right, while Tabby Wittenberg, also a sophomore, looks on during a recent human science class. Donations from two Lions clubs helped purchase additional EKG monitors for the class. (Tribune photo by Linda Vanderwerf)1 / 2
Science teacher Brenda Holm, center, reaches for the mouse as she works with Vanessa Lopez, left, a junior, and Mandi Wordes, a sophomore, in the human science class at Renville County West High School in Renville. (Tribune photo by Linda Vanderwerf)2 / 2

RENVILLE -- Everyone's heartbeat is a little different, something the students in the Renville County West science lab could see firsthand.

The students in the human science class at RCW High School had the chance to put electrodes on their arms and see the record of their heartbeats march across a computer screen.

And they all completed the task in one class period, with the help of four new Vernier EKG monitors in the school's science lab. Before, the class had to share two monitors.

Teacher Brenda Holm said the class has been studying the heart, and it was an advantage to let everyone conduct an experiment in the same period.

"By looking at the graph, you can look at what's happening in your heart," she said. Each student received a printout of his or her own heart graph. They all had worksheets to complete after conducting their experiment.

Holm knew that her department's budget didn't have room for extras like the new monitors. She had sought donated monitors through a Web site sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Education and the Minnesota High Tech Association.

The GetSTEM site is de-signed to connect classrooms and businesses. Teachers can post requests for things they need, such as equipment, mentors, speakers or hosts for a field trip. Business can offer mentors, speakers or field trips.

In launching the site, state officials hoped to connect the schools and classrooms to help encourage the teaching of science, technology, engineering and math.

There is one other request on the site from the area -- calculators for middle school students in Redwood Falls.

The site has led to some successful contacts, but in Holm's case, two local Lions Clubs responded first. The Danube and Renville clubs heard about her request and each donated $300 to purchase four new monitors.

With the two monitors she already had, Holm now has one monitor for each computer station in the lab. Gene Allex of the Danube Lions and Brian Fuller of the Renville Lions visited the class recently to watch the students work on their experiment.

"Obviously we're happy to be a part of her program," Fuller said. The club tries to "fill the holes" in school funding when it can.

Allex, a custodian at the high school, said he had seen another experiment involving the monitors and asked Holm, "How can you do it with two?"

The men were impressed to see what the students were learning. Both said it was something they didn't learn even in their training to become emergency medical technicians.

Holm said she managed the class before by rotating students between different experiments or finding something else for students to do while waiting for a turn with a monitor.

It could be a chaotic situation, she said. By contrast, with six monitors available, the lab was quiet and orderly during the experiment, with three or four students working together at each computer station.

The students could tell the difference, too. "It would take a lot longer," said Emma Sharpe, a sophomore from Renville.

"There would probably be something else going on," added Erica Sinner. "We would be frustrated."

The students said they could see how everyone's heartbeat was different, and they enjoyed being able to see that so clearly.

"It's easier if you can see it, not just be told about it," said Mandi Wordes, a sophomore from rural Renville.

The students said they have enjoyed the human science class, even though it can be a difficult one.

"It's hard," Sinner said. "But it's fun," added Holly Pennings, a sophomore from Roseland. "You learn a lot of interesting stuff."

For more information about the getSTEM Web site, go to