By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Lifting fingerprints, casting footprints in mud, and analyzing bullet holes Lester Prairie High School students are on their way to becoming crime-solving sleuths, due to a multi-thousand dollar grant from 3M.
“We got a huge science donation,” science teacher Mike Bjork said. He and science teacher Greg Landkamer used the money to enhance Lester Prairie’s science curriculum in innovative ways.
Landkamer purchased a number of computer components for his chemistry and physics classes, giving students the tools to conduct advanced research.
Bjork teaches seventh, eighth, and ninth grade earth and life sciences, as well as an advanced science class for juniors and seniors. He used the majority of his funds for forensic science materials.
“We wanted to add a new aspect this year,” said Bjork, who understands the importance of forensics firsthand.
“I did this as a police officer in the city of Savage,” he said. “My last assignment was in crime scene investigation.”
By studying forensic science, students learn how to problem-solve, think critically, and pay attention to details. Forensic scientists use math and scientific techniques to investigate crimes and help resolve legal issues in a court of law.
“We’re giving the kids more opportunities to learn as much as they can,” Bjork said.
Lester Prairie High School staff applied for 3M’s “impact grant” by making a wish list of the materials that would be beneficial for science education.
According to Jan Johnson, who works in human resources at 3M in Hutchinson, 3M often gives out “impact grants” of between $500 to $20,000, in addition to product donations.
“Because 3M is located in Hutchinson, a lot of times the grants go to schools in Hutchinson,” Johnson said, but added that grants also are given within a 30-mile radius of Hutchinson.
“That’s where we’re drawing our future employees,” she explained. “We want to make sure students get the best education they can with math and science.”
In 2009, the Hutchinson 3M plant donated more than $200,000 in product and grants to non-profit organizations and schools.
“That’s just part of 3M community giving,” Johnson said.
After reviewing Lester Prairie’s application, 3M determined that forensics equipment would be an effective use of its grant money.
“We liked that it had science with a little bit of a twist,” Johnson said.
Some of the equipment might benefit younger students at Lester Prairie, as well.
“We’re working on sharing and utilizing resources with the elementary school,” Bjork said.
The 3M grant was a one-time gift, but Bjork said he plans to apply for a grant again next year.
“Budgets are tight, so getting equipment like this is very nice,” he said.