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4-H kids, parents learn about science

4-H youth and parents complete an experiment using micropipettes during an afterschool learning session Jan. 28 at St. Croix Central High School. The event was led by Tom Zinnen, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Wisconsin-Extension.1 / 2
Tom Zinnen (right) holds a micropipette as he explains a science experiment to a group of 4-H kids and parents that attended a Jan. 28 afterschool learning session at St. Croix Central High School. Four 4-H youth and several parents attended the event. The youth who participated were Stephanie Howell, Nikolas Vrchota, Mollie Miller and Payton Knuth.2 / 2

The thick fog that obscured the roads and decreased visibility on Jan. 28, kept the attendance down at an event put on by the University of Wisconsin-Extension and St. Croix County 4-H.

Tom Zinnen, a state specialist in Agriculture and Life Sciences, held an after school learning session for ages 10 and up in the St. Croix Central High School science and technology lab.

Fourteen-year-old Stephanie Howell, a member of the Golden Fireballs 4-H group, said she is glad she was one of the four young people who attended the learning session.

"It was not something I've ever done before," Howell said.

She said Zinnen was very good at explaining science in an interesting way.

"(Zinnen) makes you relax so you want to listen to what he has to say," Howell said.

Jessica Sprain, interim 4-H youth development program advisor for the University of Wisconsin-Extension in St. Croix County, said Zinnen was able to make the concepts he covered understandable for all who attended, from the kids to their parents.

Howell's mother Karen is one parent who took part in the program.

"It was kind of funny having her there actually," Stephanie Howell said. "Because I think she was getting more into it even than we kids were, and we kids were pretty into it."

Stephanie Howell said her favorite part of the session was an experiment Zinnen conducted involving the identification of salmon DNA.

Although the DNA molecules themselves are invisible, the salmon DNA the students and parents worked with was visible. Zinnen said although this sounds paradoxical, there is a simple explanation. He said DNA can be visible the same way water can be visible.

"You can't see an individual molecule of water, but if you get enough of them together, you can see water," Zinnen said.

Zinnen said the salmon DNA experiment taught a valuable lesson: the recognition of a paradox.

"This is not only a paradox, it's also a parable," Zinnen said.

Zinnen said parables like the salmon DNA lesson can apply to areas outside of science.

"Designing and doing an experiment really is an opportunity for creativity and ingenuity," Zinnen said.

Zinnen said he was grateful to all the people who helped welcome him and bring him to St. Croix Central. The event was Zinnen's first at SCC, although he has done many similar events across the state.

"I hope it went well enough that I'll be invited back often," Zinnen said.

Sprain said the UW-Extension 4-H program would like to offer a repeat event at some point in the future.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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