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Waseca 4-H brings Design Squad Global curriculum to TEAM Academy Charter School

The local 4-H brought in a new program for summer school kids at TEAM Academy Charter School.

Amy Nelson, Waseca County 4-H program coordinator, reached out to TEAM to offer Design Squad Global, a five-week STEM based curriculum program.

“4-H was looking to reach more kids that we’re not currently reaching,” Nelson said. “So I talked with Jill here at Team Academy to see if there would be an opportunity for us to come in with this curriculum and she said ‘Yep summer, school.’”

In the past, 4-H has worked with TEAM for different programs.

“I think it’s been awesome, we’ve worked with TEAM Academy before but they’re such a great partner and so willing,” Nelson said. “The teachers stick around and help out, and it’s really a great partnership and we like coming here … they’re willing to try new things. It’s fun to see their (kids) little minds working instead of us standing in front of them teaching them the whole hour and a half. We usually talk about solutions and then they do group problem solving. “

Design Squad Global

Design Squad Global is a program that was created in Boston, Massachusetts and originally started as a TV show through PBS Kids to see teams of kids doing engineering challenges. It was to break down stereotypes and it became a way to do outreach and do hands-on activities.

This program is aimed at middle school aged kids. The students participating are paired with other clubs throughout the states and even internationally.

“When we developed the activities, we wanted to make sure we were creating activities that are accessible to as many students as possible,” Design Squad Global Digital Marketing and Outreach Coordinator Nicki Sirianni said.


TEAM is paired with five other schools in Haiti, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and New Jersey. TEAM has struggled with connecting with the other programs because of the timing that different programs started, but the Waseca class has gotten responses from one. A TEAM class made introductions to send to the partner schools and they then received one back.

During the activities, the leaders take pictures, which they then share with the other schools to show the process of how the students tackled the engineering challenge and what they did differently.

“I think it’s really, really cool, because it’s something they probably wouldn’t have been exposed to if we hadn’t come in with it; they don’t normally make catapults or grabbers,” 4-H intern Alana Skarstad said. “I think it’s really neat that they get to play with all sorts of materials and try to go through different ideas and learn that it’s OK to keep trying and to keep reinventing what your idea is. It’s a little outside of what people normally think of 4-H.”

Bailey Grubish / By BAILEY GRUBISH 

The goal of building a grabber was to make it strong enough to grab a candy filled bag off of the wall.

Waseca club

The club in Waseca meets once a week on Tuesdays at TEAM. During the sessions, there is a different task each time. This week, the students worked in teams to create a grabber out of cardboard, duct tape, skewers, cups and paint sticks. They were then to use the grabber to get a bag that was duct taped to the wall down.

As the kids were building their grabbers they learned what was working and what wasn’t working through trial and error. One group added more duct tape for stability and another group added skewers for length and this continued until they figured out what worked.

Bailey Grubish / By BAILEY GRUBISH 

Wiatt Arndt works on his grabber using duct tape to reinforce it. (Bailey Grubish/Waseca County News) 

“With all the activities there is no one right answer and I think that’s really empowering for the kids…,” Sirianni said. “They’re not being driven towards the one same answer, and I think that’s really cool too to see what they come up with…”

Once the challenge was finished, the students came together as a large group to discuss the challenges of the task and what they did to problem solve.

“The hardest part for us was to get that bag,” student Ezera Adams said.

Another group experienced a different challenge.

“Making it was the hard part, but it was more sturdy with the paint sticks,” student Ryleigh Johnson said.

“The hardest parts were trying to make it (the grabber) and trying to reach it (the bag),” student Damien Luecht said.

“We had to find out how to get it strong enough and it still isn’t enforced enough,” student Trayton Schultz said.

Bailey Grubish / By BAILEY GRUBISH 

Waseca County 4-H Program Coordinator Amy Nelson is the leader of Design Squad Global at TEAM Academy.

Each group learned something during the challenge of making the grabber. In this group session, they learned that they all had similar struggles of stability.

When PBS Kids created the program and what the challenges would be, the materials were taken into consideration so they could still be affordable for schools to participate.

“I think it’s really exciting to see a program that creates science and STEM for kids,” Sirianni said. “It’s moving beyond learning the concepts, and I think that not every student learns from just learning the concepts; they need to get their hands on it to learn and makes it accessible.”

Design Squad Global is a program where everything focuses on engineering issues that would be around the world allowing access to more kids.

“I think it’s a really special thing that we have to be able to connect kids across the world using STEM and science and they can be enriching conversations,” Sirianni said.

Retired Justice Paul Anderson visits Waseca Rotary, talks Mueller Report

Waseca Rotary had a special guest on July 25.

Retired Associate Justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court Paul Anderson made an appearance at rotary and gave a review/take on the Mueller Report.

“I’m glad to be here. Our society survives on vibrant civic sites, and Rotary is one of those civic sites, and it’s just shown today by your willingness to invest in the young student…,” Anderson said. “…Waseca has a particularly fond spot in my heart. In 2008 I spoke to your club… What Waseca did was put in context a series of events that made me happy to have been raised to have an open mind.”

Rotarian and attorney William Hoversten invited guest Anderson to speak to the club.

“I asked Justice Anderson to speak at the Rotary meeting, because he has always been a voice of reason who considers both sides of any issue and is willing to travel out-state and keep us informed about issues important to the Minnesota Supreme Court and, now that he is retired, his personal views on important issues in our society,” Hoversten said in an email. “I have known Justice Anderson through my work with the Minnesota State Bar Association and the Commission on Judicial Selection.”

Anderson spent over two decades as an appellate judge interpreting constitutions, both federal and state.

“Bill told me to keep it as non-political as possible, and I will attempt to do so as much as I can,” Anderson said of his speech.

Since Anderson spent many years interpreting the constitutions he stated that it offends him that President Donald Trump asserts that he is above the Constitution and is allowed to do whatever he wants as the President. After Anderson shared his view of President Trump, he shared his takeaways from the Mueller Report which he said was directly related to Trump being above the Constitution.

“Justice Anderson has been a public servant for the State of Minnesota for many years and he continues that service in his retirement,” Hoversten said. “We all need to thank him for that and for his message of civility and reason.”

Mueller Report

Anderson spoke on the Mueller Report and the testimony recently given to congress. Robert Mueller is the former special counsel for the Department of Justice and former director of the FBI. Mueller was appointed in May 2017 to investigate Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election. Recently Mueller gave a testimony on his findings to congress.

Anderson listened on tape to the entire Mueller Report and shared two main takeaways from it with the Waseca Rotary club.

The first takeaway he shared was that there was Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Mueller. Anderson stated that it continues today, so much so that he believes the electoral system is in jeopardy. He went on to say that Russia is not only involved in the United States electoral system but insisted that it was a war on democracies across the world.

Anderson made the point that Russian influence can be seen in French, German and British elections along with Ukraine and East European countries. Anderson made a point that citizens of the country need to remember that voting is a fundamental right that not all countries offer or allow.

He went on to say that the right to speak and the right to be heard are both voting.

Bailey Grubish / By BAILEY GRUBISH 

Rotary listened to Justice Anderson speak on the Mueller Report. (Bailey Grubish/Waseca County News)

“We Americans have to pay attention to what’s happening because our whole way of life is under concerted attack,” Anderson said. “This is serious, whether you are democrat, republican or independent, you have to defend it. Democracy is under attack across the world and we need to protect it.”

The second takeaway Anderson shared was that, contrary to assertions by Trump, the report did not exculpate him from wrongdoing.

“We need to respond to the alarm bells; there is continuing involvement with the Russians,” Anderson said.

Understanding the Mueller Report

Anderson stated that, in his opinion, in order to understand the Mueller Report someone must understand the role of an independent counsel, special counsel and sometimes a special prosecutor.

He stated in his speech that there is a long history going back at least as far as President Ulysses S. Grant and that there have been many attempts to remove presidents in the past. He also stated that understanding the report involves every present power struggle between the Executive, Legislative and sometimes the Judicial branches of the government.

“I am of this position, because of where I come from, I spent two decades defending the constitution because that’s what we live by,” Anderson said. “It offended me and it offends me greatly when someone disregards the constitution. So when the president says the constitution allows me to do whatever I want to do that is not the way we are.”

At the end of his speech, Anderson recommended that people at least read the executive summary of the report.

“My thoughts about his presentation are that his message about toning down the political rhetoric and working together to address the outside intervention in our election process is all critically important at this time,” Hoversten said. “I thought he gave some good background information about some of the personalities identified in the Mueller Report and that is helpful to evaluating the contents.”

Waseca will host U of M entrepreneurial conference in September

When the town of Waseca lost more than 1,000 jobs during a 10-year period, local leaders started thinking about the future. They engaged the entire community to assess Waseca’s opportunities and create a vision for the future. One thing became clear — in order to build businesses for the future, the community needed to think more about entrepreneurs today.

“Communities need entrepreneurs. And entrepreneurs need communities,” said Rani Bhattacharyya, Extension community economics educator. Bhattacharyya and her team are bringing the Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities program to the state of Minnesota. The inaugural Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities conference will be held in Waseca on Sept. 5 and 6.

“An entrepreneurial community is simply a place that creates easy access to the resources that people need when they start a business,” said Bhattacharyya. “They create social hubs where entrepreneurs can solve problems. They create easier paths to financing for start-up and long-term growth. Most of all, entrepreneurial communities have a welcoming attitude toward business, and work to support the dreams of residents who are willing to take a risk.”

Building bridges

At the September Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities conference, Extension will take the concept of “entrepreneurial communities” one step further — creating connections among communities that are actively supporting entrepreneurs.

“Research shows that links across communities and links to resources make a real difference when communities are ready to create their future,” said Bhattacharyya. “Across Minnesota, communities are showing entrepreneurs that they don’t have to do it alone. Our goal is to show Minnesota’s communities that they aren’t alone.”

The city of Waseca will host the event, and it encourages all Minnesota communities to join them.

“If we create more connections across Minnesota — and even beyond our border — we can take advantage of more resources,” said Gary Sandholm, Waseca’s economic development coordinator. “Certainly, this isn’t just a one-town story.”

Waseca’s story

Waseca’s path to becoming an entrepreneurial community started with a committee called the Business and Entrepreneurial Support Team (B.E.S.T). About two and a half years ago, B.E.S.T. created a co-working space in downtown Waseca.

The town of 9,000 had lost more than 1,000 jobs when local printing businesses declined and then closed. In 2016, B.E.S.T. began work on a Vision 2030 plan in collaboration with the city of Waseca, Waseca Chamber of Commerce, Waseca County, Mayo Clinic Health System-Waseca and Waseca Public Schools. Their planning process established four pillars that guide the community to:

• Create high quality community assets;

• Expand and leverage economic development initiatives;

• Strengthen regional connectivity;

• Create a vibrant, dynamic community.

“With Vision 2030, entrepreneurism became an important part of achieving our goals,” said Sandholm. “Entrepreneurs fill buildings and create new opportunities.”

Over time, Waseca has organized a host of resources that support business owners and would-be entrepreneurs — from Small Business Development Center consultation to “1 Million Cups” regional gatherings where entrepreneurs bounce concerns and opportunities off of experienced business people. Classes about starting a business are happening in local high schools and community settings.

Waseca hopes that this “buzz” about entrepreneurism will create a pipeline that eventually employs as many people as the printing industry once did. But they are also eager to support businesses that improve the local quality of life.

“Entrepreneurism can help us retain people who grew up here or attract new residents,” Sandholm said.

Waseca has seen success. Two new breweries have started. A family bought an existing coffee shop, expanded its evening hours and added wine, beer and more food to the menu. A local “pizza farm” is an agritourism offering that will start its third season this summer.

“It’s extremely popular,” said Sandholm. “And we’ve also had a number of retail stores fill our downtown spaces.”

Join Extension at its Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities conference in Waseca Sept. 5-6. See more at