Travelers Inver Experience

Environmental Science students work with 7th graders and learn through teaching

On Wednesday morning, December 6, 2017, students in the Environmental Science class taught by Tanya Smutka, biology faculty at Inver Hills Community College, took part in the Travelers Inver Experience through their work with approximately 50 7th graders in the AVID program at Ramsey Middle School in St. Paul.

The Inver Hills students developed poster projects based on what they are learning in their Environmental Science class. During the event, the college students interacted with the visiting middle schoolers, who broke into teams to explore each poster station and find out more about each project.

“‘The best way to learn is to teach’ is an often repeated adage,” Tanya Smutka said. “But it really is true. When you can explain a concept to someone else, that is when you learn the material with depth and retention. So in this project, students worked in small teams, just like scientists today also work in collaborative teams. My students became the professors for the day and taught the 7th graders about a concept from environmental science.”

Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” This project gives students a chance to make a difference in the world of these 7th graders.

Tanya Smutka, Biology Faculty, Inver Hills Community College

Tanya Smutka

Tanya Smutka

Many ways to learn

Tanya added that students in biology classes at Inver Hills learn course material in many different ways, including:

  • Lectures
  • Discussions
  • Debates
  • Videos
  • Field trips
  • Labs

“In this project, my students also taught their concepts in multiple ways—through the use of a poster and mini-lecture as well as a hands-on, engaging activity,” Tanya related. “Originally, many years ago, I had my students give presentations to each other. But a few years ago, I connected with the Community-Based Learning program on campus to move to a model of engagement with outside groups.”

Inver Experience gallery

Learning through presenting

Tanya reported that knowing how to present information to people lacking background knowledge on the subject matter brings an important new dimension to presentations.

“My students have shown a greater level of understanding and engagement with the project now that they are presenting to others,” she said. “I specifically like partnering with middle school students for this project because studies suggest that this is a critical age for exposure to college and STEM fields. I encourage my students to talk to the 7th graders not just about the science in their project, but about what college classes and life are like.”

BIOL 1117 | Environmental Science (with lab) | 4.0 credits

Introduces students to fundamental concepts in ecology focusing on human impact and exploitation of the environment stressing the limits of the biosphere with respect to resources, energy, and pollution. Activities will include discussion, group activities, guest speakers and films. One semester credit of lab includes field trips and analysis of factors using the campus landscape.

Inver Experience gallery

Connecting with the community

Matt Kruger, director of TRIO Student Support Services and Travelers EDGE at Inver Hills, noted that the Travelers Inver Experience enhances learning in a variety of ways while building connections between the college and area middle and high schools.

“Inver Experience is a great collaboration because it benefits Inver Hills, our students and our partner schools,” Matt reported. “The program provides a chance for Inver Hills students to deepen and enrich their learning by sharing their knowledge with younger students. At the same time, it gives middle school students from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to experience a college-level course, gain an appreciation for college opportunities, and develop connections with college students.”

More about the Travelers Inver Experience

The hallmark of this collaboration is providing middle and high school students with a hands-on classroom learning experience with Inver Hills students. These experiences range from cell model-building in Exploring Biology to flint knapping in Anthropology to dissecting sheep brains in Anatomy and Physiology—with many other experiences in between.

Groups visiting the Inver campus can also choose to participate in any or all of the following:

  • Campus tour
  • College success talk by our admissions team
  • Lunch/dinner in the college cafeteria
To learn more about the program, visit Travelers Inver Experience.

For more event photos:
Visit Travelers Inver Experience on Flickr.

Inver student spotlight: Chance Gilbertson

Chance Gilbertson

Chance Gilbertson

Chance Gilbertson, 22, is double-majoring at Inver Hills, earning an Associate of Fine Arts (A.F.A.) in Theatre and Associate of Arts (A.A.). Chance is making plans to transfer to the University of Minnesota or Minnesota State University Mankato after graduating from Inver. His goal is to earn a bachelor’s degree in theatre and go on to a career as a paid actor and director, and eventually a theatre teacher.

A 2015 graduate of South St. Paul High School, Chance has acted in a number of Inver Hills Theatre productions, including Harvey, The 39 Steps, Hansel and Gretel, and Enemy of the People. His Environmental Science class poster presentation for the Inver Experience event focused on invasive species in Minnesota, including the emerald ash borer, zebra mussel and Eurasian water milfoil.

“I like how diverse biology can really be,” Chance said, relating what he likes best about his Environmental Science class. “One week, you’ll be talking about different kinds of environments—from forests to tundras. Then in another week, you are learning about how a waste treatment plant works.”

Chance resides in South St. Paul, Minnesota. He has two brothers, Chase and Cole, and three sisters, Haley, Alexis and Katherine. In his free time, he enjoys making up and telling original jokes, acting (onstage and voice), reading the newspaper comics, playing videogames, and spending time with friends and family.

Chance Gilbertson gallery
Chance Gilbertson Q & A

What do you like best about Inver Hills?
How friendly and accepting the community is.

Why did you choose your career path?
I love entertaining and making people smile. Acting has always been my passion and through the years, it has grown with the constant love and support from all of my loved ones.

What do you most want to accomplish in life?
To bring joy to as many people possible and cheer them up when they have had a rough day.

How would you describe your experience at Inver Hills?
Inver Hills is like blank novel when you start out and you are its writer. As such, the experience is how you spend your time here the next two years. For me, I’ve spent my time making new friends and creating new bonds and memories with those I see daily while furthering my education. I think that’s precious time and experience well spent.”

To learn more about TRIO Student Support Services and the Travelers Inver Experience at Inver Hills, contact:

Matt Kruger
TRIO Student Support Services Director
Travelers EDGE Director

To learn more about Biology at Inver Hills, contact:

Heather Brient-Johnson
Biology Faculty

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *