Wayzata School District’s Young Scientist Roundtable Makes Science Accessible

by | Aug 2020

Schoolgirl in a chemical laboratory at a class of chemistry


Students receive a new view of science.

Talk about bringing science to the table in a big way. The Wayzata School District offers the Young Scientist Roundtable. Since 1992, the free program has featured more than 250 scientists.

The programs, held about once a month, feature a presentation, which is most often followed by a roundtable discussion, during which students are invited to participate. Typically, 80-350 students (K-12) and parents attend, but a presentation about robots on Mars drew more than 600 people.

Topics have included: mechanics of the foot, riding a laser beam to Alpha Centauri, high-resolution DNA analysis, new treatments for spinal cord injuries and man’s best friend helping to treat brain cancer.

How did the program begin?
Vinod Padhye, Ph.D.: While working as a science-volunteer at Wayzata Schools, I sensed a need to have entertaining science stimulus throughout the year. With my connections in the science community, I knew I could bring in exciting scientists as volunteers …

Why is it important to augment students’ exposure to science?
Deb Slomkowski, enrichment manager for Community Education/Wayzata Public Schools: [It] offers an experience that students often don’t get in the classroom—a chance to meet prominent scientists in person and hear about their compelling research and life-changing discoveries first-hand. This is important because it makes science accessible to students and helps them to see themselves as young scientists …

What about feedback?
D.S.: … We hear quite often how grateful people are to have this opportunity for their students. We love hearing stories about former Wayzata students, who have gone on to pursue careers in the sciences or are doing graduate work with [roundtable] speakers …

Check for changes in this year’s programming. Financial support comes from community members and partner school districts (Anoka-Hennepin, Eden Prairie, Edina, Hopkins, Lakeville, Minnetonka, Osseo and Orono).


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