Engaging the World through Sciences

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High School Biology students test a variety of samples under the tutelage of Ardell Knudsvig, director of U of M Crookston’s Project for Applied Sciences.

Sacred Heart is unique in that our Catholic identity is strengthened by the ability for the school to teach faith not only in the formal religion classes, but also by the school’s integration of Catholic teaching into other parts of the curriculum. Mr. Mike Marek, a longtime SHS high school science instructor said this fits nicely into what he teaches in his science classroom. “Science is the process of slowly uncovering the creation story that God has designed. As humans unfold the story I hope to bring a deep appreciation for life and the creation of nature while bringing a sense of responsibility to the students. They are the future caretakers and stewards of the creation.”

This past year Sacred Heart School was very excited to add a new Biotechnology component to the school’s already strong Biology curriculum. “The Biotechnology field is just exploding and has the potential to change life on earth,” said Marek. “This has big implications. Humans now have the ability to manipulate DNA to work better in existing organisms.”

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Students measure out samples while they construct their reservoirs for Mr. Mike Marek’s Environmental Science course.

At Sacred Heart, science students are trained to adapt quickly using new insights. They make their own discoveries and come to comprehend what decisions scientists use to understand and make good choices in order to take care of the creation. Marek says, “what I hope to hammer home to them is that the world is changing rapidly and humans, with their knowledge about nature through science, multiply the pace of new discoveries exponentially.”

science_equipmentSacred Heart’s Science Department offers courses in Life Science, Earth Science, Physical Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Environmental Science. In addition to traditional science courses Sacred Heart is also pleased to offer STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) courses for students in grades 9-12. Students in grades 6-12 also have the opportunity to further advance their engineering and coding skills through the school’s VEX Robotics Club.

In an effort to continue the learning beyond the classroom, Marek’s biology students were visited last week by Ardell Knudsvig. Knudsvig, a long time Crookston High School science teacher is the Director of Student Outreach Projects for Applied Science and Technology at the University of Minnesota Crookston.

Gel electrophoresis is one of the techniques scientists use to look at samples to determine their genetic or anatomical properties. Instead of DNA samples, Knudsvig brought with him a selection of chemical samples, five were “knowns” — items that that were identified and named. Knudsvig included three “unknowns” in their samples tray. Knudsvig told students that “you have to have knowns and unknowns because we don’t always have a computer to tell us if we have a positive match. That’s your job as scientists.”

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Students use micropipetters to measure out their chemical samples into electrophoresis gels.

After a general explanation Knudsvig let the students return to their lab workstations to begin using a micropipetter to drop measured samples into each of the cell wells of their electrophoresis gel.

When the gel was plugged in Knudsvig explained that the material would start to separate as the electricity pulled the atoms apart based on their positive and negative charges. Some students had good samples, but to one group Knudsvig commented, “This one’s kind of sneaky. It should be pulling apart as there should be more color in this one.”
On top of the experiences in biology class, students do have the opportunity to apply for work at UND’s Molecular boot camp for two weeks this summer. During the two-week laboratory-based time they will learn to identify possible agricultural pests or other animals using DNA sequencing. Interested students can see Mr. Marek.

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