Milk became a magical thing for 6- to 8-year-olds at the Faribault Parks and Rec summer science camp Monday morning.
Instructor Madi Strodtman poured milk into tin pans at each table in one of the classrooms at the Washington Rec Center, where the two-week camp began July 22. After completing this process, she instructed campers to squirt dye into the tin to see how the colors would react to milk and dish soap.
Luke Davidson, one of the campers, predicted the colors would mix together, and he was right.
“I’ve been to the other [Parks and Rec] camps, so a lot of the camps have been pretty fun,” said Davidson during the camp’s recess break.
Apart from the science camp, Faribault Parks and Rec has also hosted summer camps with themes like safety, investigation, dinosaurs and art. Davidson said he enjoys these camps because they give him something to do during the summer besides watch TV.
Another camper, Avery Pribbenow, agreed that she really likes Parks and Rec camps. On the first day of science camp, she learned how to make rainbows by shining a flashlight through a glass cup.
Science camp isn’t only a learning experience for the campers but also the instructors and volunteers. Madi Strodtman, a rising senior at Southwest Minnesota State University, began helping with Faribault Parks and Rec seven summers ago. While she’s preserved camp teaching material from previous years, she’s also developed her own ideas through Pinterest and other online sources.
Strodtman said it didn’t take long for the 16 science camp slots to fill up after registration opened. While science camp is one of the most popular camps Park and Rec offers, it’s not offered every year. For various reasons, it’s one of Strodtman’s favorites.
“I like that [the campers] are a little bit older, so they’re interested in everything,” said Strodtman. “Other camps have art projects, but this one is more school-oriented, more exciting.”
The science experiments in particular are designed to hold the campers’ attention. Strodtman asks them to make predictions before preparing their materials, and while some results happen quickly, others require more patience. On the first day, campers repeatedly checked a long strip of paper dipped in five glasses of dyed water and guessed how long it would take before the colors blended together to make a rainbow effect. The last 10 minutes of the day, the campers gather in a circle to review the results of each experiment.
As the camp progresses, Strodtman and her volunteers — including recent Bethlehem Academy graduate Abby Strodtman and rising sophomore Ellie Cohen — will teach the campers about chemistry with concoctions that explode and fizz. Campers will also learn about plants, space and static, and an electrical circuit kit will help them learn about electricity.
Since the theme changes every day, Strodtman said, “They’ll have something cool to learn each day to go home and tell Mom and Dad about.”
ST. PAUL — Four top brass resigned, and then two un-resigned, and there’s been little public explanation for why all the drama at Minnesota’s largest agency, the Department of Human Services.
And don’t expect any more insight from Pam Wheelock, the acting commissioner appointed by Gov. Tim Walz July 16. In an interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Friday, Wheelock refused to discuss it in any detail.
Wheelock was tapped to replace former Commissioner Tony Lourey, who resigned Monday — six months after he vacated his longtime state Senate seat to lead the agency.
Lourey resigned after his two deputy commissioners — career administrators Charles E. Johnson and Claire Wilson — resigned the week before. Then after Lourey resigned, his chief of staff, Stacie Weeks, tendered her resignation. Then Johnson and Wilson rescinded their resignations. Lourey’s resignation letter simply said a new leader was “necessary,” and Walz merely stated it was “time for a new leadership style.”
DHS oversees a range of programs for the state’s most vulnerable residents, including child protection, serving the disabled and administering the state’s version of Medicaid.
Wheelock is a veteran of state government, academia, private business and philanthropy who is respected by both Democrats and Republicans.
She emphasized three priorities for what she expects to be a relatively brief tenure: bringing immediate stability, addressing any pressing concerns that may arise — as they often do at large agencies — and keeping an eye out for how to improve how things work at DHS.
But reporters pressed her on how we got here. Here’s some of Friday’s interview.
The big question I think for the public is: What’s been going on — really?
I would say that my orientation starting on Tuesday is moving forward. I’m not in the position, nor am I really interested, or think it’ll add value, about examining what happened in the past. What I can observe is that this is a very hard job. It’s a big, complex agency with 6,700 employees and serving more than a million people in Minnesota. Budget of $19 billion. And you can’t do this job with all the varied audiences and the integrated overlapping programmatic areas without a lot of complexity, controversy, conflict. And the prior commissioner, I really applaud. He did a great job, I think, in the first six months about some important goals during the legislative session with his full team. And I know from my own professional experience, people make decisions for deeply personal reasons, and I respect that. And there’s no reason why I think I need to know anything more than I do, so my orientation is: Move forward, bring stability, get needed important work done and solve problems where I need to solve problems.
Was there a ‘deeply personal reason’ why Commissioner Lourey resigned?
I have no idea, but there are really four people being talked about with these resignations, and I’m sure none of this is easy, and everybody makes decisions based on their own situation and their own assessment.
Let me make the argument that it is relevant going forward. Our reporting suggests that all this stems from a rift between Lourey and his chief of staff on one side, and Johnson and Wilson on another side. One group is out now, the other is in. That has to have some bearing. What can you tell us about that?
Well, the only thing that I would say is, again, I am less concerned about what happened before Tuesday morning when I started as the acting commissioner of DHS.
How long do you expect (your tenure) to be?
I really don’t know.
Will you apply for it permanently?
No. I’m not a candidate for the permanent position. … I’m not here to look in the rear view mirror. I’m here driving ahead, trying to help the team of 6,700 as best I can.
Republicans have used the word “scandal” to describe what has happened. What’s your take on that description?
I appreciate, from the outside, this looks atypical. But that’s a pretty serious word, and the fact of the matter is we’re all people, and people have a lot of reasons for making the changes they do. … I wouldn’t make more of it than what people say is their motivation, and I think they can trust that people are being as candid as they can be.
OK, what I’m getting at, more specifically, is, is there any chance that relates to anything that is a scandal of government malfeasance, like misuse of government resources, violations of law, criminality — that level of — corruption?
I would just say this and then I’m going to move on: There is nothing that I know today that suggests there’s any value for me in looking backward.
A Faribault woman who threatened to stab another woman was arrested Saturday and charged with felony assault, according to court records.
Jennifer Marie Annis, 35, was charged Monday with second-degree assault and misdemeanor domestic assault after police say an argument between the two women became physical. The alleged victim told police that when she refused to leave the home after Annis ordered her to do so, Annis took a knife from her purse, unfolded it and said, “I just want to stab you.”
Annis reportedly put the knife away, but attacked the victim, scratching her legs, face and eyelid with her nails and sent her threatening text messages. The reporting officer said that the victim’s injuries were consistent with her description of the encounter.
In an interview with police, Annis admitted that she got “worked up” and that “there was some grabbing going on,” but denied any weapons were involved.
Annis has her next appearance in court on July 31.
In other reports:
• Barron Lee Chapman Jr., 32, of St. Paul, was charged Thursday with third-degree burglary in connection with a May 9 break-in at the Dennison Marathon. According to a criminal complaint, Rice County Sheriff’s investigators were alerted to a possible suspect by Cannon Falls police during their investigator of a burglary at its Dairy Queen. The vehicle reportedly used by Chapman and another man not identified in the complaint matched the vehicle seen in surveillance video taken from the Marathon.
Cannon Falls and Goodhue County Sheriff’s investigators reportedly seized several items from the vehicle, including large rocks similar to one used to break a glass door and gain entry to the Marathon station. Investigators also got search warrant for several smartphones, including one owned by Chapman. Data taken from Chapman’s phone allegedly shows he was in the vicinity of the Marathon and Dairy Queen during the time of the break-ins
• Matthew Brent Quast, 42, of Le Center, was taken into custody Friday by Cannon River Drug and Violent Offender Task Force agents who reportedly had probably cause to make the arrest. Quast was charged Monday with third-degree methamphetamine sale and fifth-degree possession of meth.
During a search, an officer reportedly found a straw, which tested positive for methamphetamine, in the defendant’s right front pants pocket. On the floor in front of the driver’s seat was a case with two digital scales, scoop spoons, clear plastic baggies, and a plastic bag containing 6.25 grams of meth. Also located in the vehicle was a glass meth pipe, a broken meth pipe and a bag with residue under the driver’s seat, according to the complaint.
Quast is set to appear in court July 31.
• Irving Mixteco, 42, of Owatonna, was charged Friday with third-degree drug sale after he reportedly sold methamphetamine to an undercover officer working with the region’s drug task force. Mixteco, who is currently in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, reportedly sold the officer 3.86 grams of meth for $200 on April 4.