By Steve Peterson
At their Nov. 18 meeting, the West Sioux School Board heard a report about Lakeside Lab, a combined effort with George-Little Rock.
“It’s a facility at West Lake Okoboji that is a laboratory, a field station, owned by the Iowa Board of Regents for the three main universities,” said West Sioux teacher Josh Martinsen. “We have been going there since 1999, twice a year, with the exception of not going for a few years due to conflicts.”
“Our students have gone 26 times and 164 students have participated,” said Martinsen. “The program was started by Akron-Westfield Community School about a year before we did it. WS and A-W are the only two high schools that go and use it as an overnight trip.”
“We went with A-W for several years but the last few years we have gone with George-Little Rock as Jenna Noble, a WS alumnnus, brought some G-LR students along. It’s nice for our students to get to know students from another school,” said Martinsen.
The student groups, from elementary to colleges, work on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) projects there for three days each fall and spring.
“When we refer to Lakeside Lab, we’re not referring to it as a place but as more of a project,” he explained. “We work on STEM experience for selected students. “
“Students are selected after an application process. We take 10 to 12 students,” said Martinsen. “When you have small numbers you are able to do bigger things. We can do research there.”
“We want to make sure the students have a basic knowledge of science and are prepared for an experience like this and have had a geometry class,” said instructor Ben Bouza. “We also want students who are academically strong.”
Duane Sperle is the third Lakeside Labe instructor from West Sioux.
“We pose questions, nothing is cut-and-dried. For example, we work in a kettle hole, which is a hole in the ground. One time we estimated what it would take to fill the hole, which sides would be level. They can put their math and science knowledge to use,” said Martinsen.
Cost of the trip, about $120 per student, is assisted by fundraisers the group does during the year.
“We try and keep the cost as low as possible because that could be a turnoff,” said Martinsen. We do have some other costs such as equipment with water waders, radios and water quality kits costing about $5,000. We have gained some grants such as a Kading Grant; a Hawarden Community Foundation grant; and a Hoch Inc. chemical company grant.
Volunteers help at the site by making meals, notably Bob Brewington. Students stay overnight and are responsible for washing dishes and cleaning up.
“It’s great to have other people who are willing to put the time in, and cook for 25 – 30 people Friday to Monday,” said Martinsen.
Sessions last for four hours followed by nighttime student presentations.
Students explained topics have included fish population, working with nets to catch the fish and identifying them and learning species diversity, based on the type of water, and also surface mapping.
“We want to get every fish in that stretch of creek,” said Martinsen.
Two West Sioux students, Cheyenne Foster and Grace Egenes told the school board members the experience was fun.
Students also get to study some unique land features of the area, said Bouza, such as fens, “which are only in existence here and in China. Fens were more abundant in earlier times but farming and ranching have eliminated them. It’s a biomass of plant vegetation that has water pressure under it, and it’s not soil under there but water. It builds up, It’s very unique to the region.”
“It’s actually on high ground, not on low ground,” said Martinsen of fens.
Students also viewed a petroglyph, a unique rock formation located an hour away; and, atlatls, a hunting device of ancient times, were studied.
“You ask yourself why that was used and you want it to go farther and get there faster; we can do velocity measurements and acceleration measurements and apply those concepts to something real-world and hands-on,” said Bouza.
“Just the idea of how long that (Petroglyph) stuff has been here. It’s one of the oldest land forms known — older than the Pyramids,” said Martinsen.
“It was fun. I had an amazing time,” said Foster.
“We’re constantly thinking of new things to do there,” said Martinsen.
The next Lakeside Lab experience will be May 2 – 5, 2014 and school officials were invited to come.
“It runs all day, from 6 a.m. to until 10:30 p.m.,” said Bouza.