Feature Stories

High School and Elementary Students Connect to Explore “Spooky Science”

On October 29, the Minnetonka High School Science Department and International Baccalaureate (IB) Program hosted about 100 elementary school students to celebrate Halloween with a series of spooky-themed science activities. Students and families were able to explore a variety of interactive stations designed by IB students and staff. These included an opportunity to create geometric bubbles, to make secret ink messages disappear with fire and to play a candy toss game while wearing distortion goggles.

Joe Cossette, a physics teacher and science department chair at MHS, considered the Spooky Science Saturday event a great learning opportunity for the high schoolers as much as the elementary school students.

 “Officially, this project was used to satisfy one of the IB curriculum requirements for science classes called the ‘Group 4 Project,’ which requires cross-curricular collaboration. Students taking an IB science class worked in groups with students from another class to come up with a demo that they could present,” he explained. “It was a great exercise in finding ways to describe complex science at an elementary level, and it was really fun to watch the high schoolers collaborate on this challenge.” 

The event served not only to promote the learning of IB students, but also to raise excitement among younger students for the educational experiences awaiting them in the future. “For the elementary school students and their families, we wanted to give them a positive experience in the high school that gets them excited about what is ahead,” said Cossette. “Specifically, we wanted to emphasize how amazing science is and inspire them to explore the science all around them.”

Students certainly expressed plenty of excitement throughout the day. Tom Tomashek, a former MHS teacher, was featured at the event with his own science show, in which he performed a series of scientific demonstrations that were a hit with students. Another popular activity was hosted after the event had officially ended: a rocket building and launching challenge.

“We heard huge yelps of excitement any time someone was able to land a rocket up on the second floor,” said Cossette. “There were many times that I was walking through the demo rooms and heard students or their parents sharing how cool and how much fun science is. It’s always a highlight to see high school students interacting with elementary school students and sharing their enthusiasm for science and the work that they had prepared.”

Overall, the event made an outstanding impression on Minnetonka students and families, who quickly filled up all three available time slots. The staff and students involved in making it happen considered it a success. “I think events like this are wonderful for the community to build positive memories that some of our high school students still have from when they attended as elementary school students years ago,” said Cossette. “It is all part of our mission to support our students in their journey through the many science opportunities that we offer, from advanced courses to the Minnetonka Research program.”

Laura Herbst, Advanced Learning Coordinator at the high school, expressed special gratitude for MHS science teachers, who worked hard to organize the busy event. “Just as the high school students did a wonderful job of building excitement for the elementary students, the teachers put great time and energy into making it an enjoyable learning experience for the high school students!” she said.

High schoolers and elementary students connected to explore "Spooky Science" and ignite excitement for science.

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A students explains her capstone project using a visual poster for a visiting guest at June's Capstone Fair.

The Capstone program is an opportunity for Minnetonka High School seniors to participate in a two-week off-campus experience at the end of the school year. Through the program, students are able to discover new interests and further invest in their passions by exploring a career field, service work or a project of interest with a mentor in a real-world setting.