Saturday, November 27, 2010

Update by Laddie Elwell, Director

Flowing With the Current . . . .

                        Your Gifts to US

There’s always a lot going on at HSC––people of all ages coming in for all kinds of reasons, records to keep, endless ringing of the telephone, and the demands of e-mail and internet. Those items don’t begin to compare with demands of animal care, exhibit repair and refurbishment, cleaning, and all the preparations that staff embers must make for presentations and youth groups. Recently we re-stocked our Science Store, and there’s a lot of work to ordering, unpacking and checking the orders, pricing everything, and getting it all in the right places.

I’m writing this shortly before Thanksgiving Day, and that’s a day that, I suspect, makes us all think of the special people who impact our lives. But I’m thinking especially of the appreciation that all of us at Headwaters Science Center feel for the volunteers who carry out so many tasks, and I cannot even think how we could function if staff members had to do everything that volunteers do.

Our website was established and is attended to daily by John Mathisen, who constantly reminds all of us of coming events, financial opportunities, and unmet needs. John has also taken most of the photographs in our archives, and most of those on the website. He and his wife, Ann, have been active right from HSC’s beginning 18 or 19 years ago. John was a wildlife biologist for the U.S. Forest Service on the Chippewa National Forest in his “former life,” and was a member of the National Bald Eagle Recovery Team. Ann Mathisen is a botanist, and has been responsible for the array of wild flowers and other local plants that is in our entry area and has provided “The Science of Stamps” exhibits.

Julie Bengtson is another original HSC supporter who continues to undertake exhibits and big fund raising events. She not only edits this newsletter and attends to its publishing and mailing, but has built exhibits, served on our Board, organizes computer records, designs windows and our donor recognition area, and has been very instrumental in raising badly-needed funds for the Center. She even made the large “Headwaters Science Center” sign on the outside of our building!

Boyd Ferrell has also been with HSC for most of our existence. Seventeen years ago he walked into our mostly empty building with a tiny model of what is now our harmonograph, or, as he calls it more correctly, our symmetrograph. We didn’t know it would be that big, or that complex, but it has been a star performer for about 15 years. What few people know is that it is designed in such a way that advanced college level physics students could use it as a physics experiment by moving weights around inside it! Boyd also built our windmill and the telegraph in the Communications exhibit. He has a rich past in industry, but among his varied jobs he was a real telegrapher; only those of us past middle age remember when a telegram was the primary means of communicating over distances.

Years ago, we were having problems installing a large microscope when Barry Lyons offered to help out. Barry not only installed the microscope, but has helped fix or install many items in the Center since then. He has served on our Board and has recently helped with two exhibits. The best part is that we know who we can call whenever we need help!

I don’t know how many years Richard Johnson has been coming in on a six-day-a-week basis, but we would be lost without him! He dusts the store, organizes our inventory and takes out items that have been mistreated, shovels snow, sweeps the walk, replaces paper towels and light bulbs, and does all kinds of other things. He is a gem!

Many of you respond to items listed in our “Wish List” that appears in all our newsletter issues, and we very much appreciate that. Our star responder is Joan Ditty, who manages to find an incredible array of items that we use in presenting programs and exhibits, caring for animals, and storing or cleaning things. We appreciate it more than words can say!

If you’ve inspected our marine tank, with its fish, corals, sea urchin and sea star, you may be aware that the Northern Minnesota Reef Club has been highly instrumental in setting up and maintaining the tank. Key people in making that happen are Frank and Susan Hazard. Frank made the trek over to Menahga to pick up the 190- gallon tank and associated heavy equipment from donor Michelle Rinke. Susan made contact with the Reef Club and has also been involved in brochure design, window decoration, fundraising, and many other aspects of Center operations. Frank served on the Board and has helped with many projects at HSC. The Hazards were the owners of the wonderful large electric trains that were at HSC two years ago. That adventure was pretty hard on the trains!

HSC doesn’t have an historian, and the closest we come to having a written history is Board records AND the notebooks filled with clippings from The Pioneer and other newspapers or other sources whenever we can find them. Jean Daily took on the job of finding, cutting out, and entering these materials into the pages of the notebooks that we have been trying to keep since 1991. When Jean took over about a year ago, we had a pile of newspapers that we had collected over a two-year period that no one had even cut out, so she had a tough catch-up period.

Anyone who has kept animals knows that birds are the creatures who are most demanding in terms of keeping them clean and properly fed. Amy Granlund, who is a real-life chemist, comes in regularly to help with our raptors, who are quite messy individuals and expect to eat fresh meat. Amy has worked hard to learn them so that she is one of those entrusted with their care.

Another animal-lover is Sarah Vaughn, who comes in twice a week to care for animals, especially snakes. She is meticulous in carrying out her tasks and is a pleasure to have at HSC!

Science Club is a regular weekly activity at HSC that takes lots of staff time. Antton Oja generously gives of his time to help out with activities at Science Club and BooFest. Antton was one of our own Science Center Kids when he was a youngster, and it is wonderful to see him helping now with the younger kids, who really look up to him.

The new exhibition on respiration and circulation as they relate to nutrition and exercise will be at least partly on display in prototype form in December. Muriel Gilman, professor of Physical Education, and Susan Carlson, a cardiac nurse at Bemidji Regional Hospital, have been working with me for two years to develop the basis of the exhibition.

A relatively new volunteer is a recent college graduate in biology who loves animals––and appears to be loved by them. Erin Maxson comes in regularly to observe and care for HSC’s creatures, though her special interest happens to be invertebrates. Our box turtle, Steve, recently had a fungal infection of his shell, and Erin seems to have been able to reverse the infection and encourage him to eat. Steve has since gained an eighth of a pound and is noticeably more active.

Other volunteers help us out enormously, and our Board of Directors, whose names are on the back page of this Current, are certainly included among them. Board members are very grateful to Jeanne Edevold Larson for her marvelous help last June!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Give to the Max Day - November 16

November 16 is the Big Day for Giving!

What if you could help Headwaters Science Center win $1000 just by giving 10 bucks? On November 16, Give to the Max Day, you can.

Last year, more than 38,000 donors logged on to and gave over $14 million to more than 3,000 Minnesota charities and nonprofits in 24 hours during Give to the Max Day. This year, the goal is to beat our own record by engaging 40,000 donors during the second annual Give to the Max Day on November 16. Headwaters Science Center, together with – a first-of-its-kind giving website for nonprofits in Minnesota – is working to create a stronger nonprofit community for Minnesota.

Give to the Max Day amplifies your giving impact in two ways:

1. Win a Golden Ticket! $1,000 will be given to a random donor’s charity every hour. You could be that donor!

2. Put us on the Leader Board! Your donation on November 16, could put us on the leader board to win $10,000 or even $20,000 for the most number of donors for our nonprofit. Help us get “on the board!”

Go to this page to make a donation or visit the HSC web site and click on the Donate button. It's easy, tax deductible and secure.

What is GiveMN? is the smart way for you to discover, support and engage with the charities that are right for you. The online giving platform allows you to easily find organizations that match your giving goals, support them through secure credit or debit card donations, receive automated tax deductible receipts through email, and conveniently track and record your donations in a single online location.

As you consider your charitable end-of-year giving, please consider participating in Give to the Max Day on Nov. 16.  GiveMN is easy to use, and your gift to Headwaters Science Center will make a huge difference to our ongoing work.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Notes from Laddie Elwell, Center Director

Flowing With the Current . . . .
Updates by Laddie Elwell
Good News and . . . .

Summer’s gone, and it’s amazing how time sweeps us all along, like some great wind that picks us up in June, whirls us through a series of exciting events, and deposits us in September.

It’s been busy at HSC, and being a bit short-handed has made it hard to get everything done, though we had some wonderful free (to us) help this summer. The Communications Exhibit is up and

running, and I see folks using Morse Code to send messages back and forth between the Baltimore “station” and the San Francisco “station,” or sometimes just practicing on one telegraph key. When I was a child, my brother delivered telegrams by bicycle, and they provided the most important personal communications at the time.

Make sure to look at the history of communications in the center of the exhibit: it drives home just how recently communications have so drastically changed our lives after such a very long, slow start.

The marine (salt water) aquarium is coming along beautifully, though we’re having problems with the chiller, which is needed to keep the water in the right temperature range. Chillers are expensive items, and Reef Club members (who have made the whole exhibit possible––and sustainable!) have been busy looking for a source of a new one. If anyone can help out with this problem, please let us know and we’ll pass the information on to the Reef Club folks.

There is some good news and some bad news. The bad news has to do with our need to raise prices and that is now taking place. The entrance fee for visitors who are 2 to 11 years old is now $4. Also in effect are increases in birthday party, program, and demonstration prices, which you may view on our website. Membership rates go up on January 1st so you might want to renew earlier to take advantage of the present price.

We really hate to do this because we’ve always tried to keep our prices as low as possible, but with lower income from other sources, it has become necessary. Grants and donations have been lower during the last two years, though both memberships and the number of visitors have increased and staff members have been delivering more programs both in the Center and throughout our service area.

The higher attendance we’ve enjoyed means more staffing is needed and costs have increased. It boils down to simple arithmetic: if your cost to produce a product is $1, you can’t sell it for 95 cents; and the more you sell, the faster you will go out of business––unless someone else chips in!

There’s really lots of good news. First of all, we have so many wonderful volunteers who help us out every day who make a big difference in helping to keep HSC operating! Memberships and numbers of visitors have increased. Also, we plan to begin construction on the Respiration/Circulation exhibition in September and open it by late October. It fell behind its original schedule for several reasons: financial, committee member time constraints, and other Center demands. Stay posted: we’ll let you know on the website and in media releases. I think you’ll find it interesting and informative––and enjoyable!

Other items:

•In June, Jeanne Edevold Larson provided leadership for a retreat for the HSC Board and staff. Issues were clarified and priorities established so that we should have an easier time moving forward.

•HSC has become a partner with United Way, joining other local nonprofits. HSC will receive $4,000 from United Way towards operations this year.

•Evergreen’s Kinship North program is collaborating with HSC to provide Science Center time for mentors and involved kids.

There are lots of things going on at HSC. Come on in and find out!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

HSC Announces School-year Programs

Summer programs and activities are history. HSC now prepares for school-year activities which will include all of the popular programs for kids and adults from previous years: Tots-N-Science for ages 3-6, Wednesdays from 10:00-11:00 am, After School Science Club for ages 7-13 each Monday at 3:30 pm, Talented and Gifted program for ages 11-13, Home Schooling programs 3rd Friday of each month. See our web site for all the details.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

New Challenge pages on HSC Web Site

Be sure to check out the new "Challenge Activity" pages on the HSC web site. This is an interactive way (using games and fun things) for students and teachers and all visitors to test their science smarts once they have visited the Center or viewed the web site. It is still in the development stage and we are looking for ideas, comments and criticism so we can make it better. Click the link to go directly to it. Please look it over. Send comments to John Mathisen

Monday, August 9, 2010

Camp Invention a Huge Success

On August 14, fifty enthusiastic kids grades 1 through 6 descended on Headwaters Science Center, for five days of creative activities where they learned how to invent things out of common household items. Called Camp Invention, it has become an annual affair at the Center, and really stirs the creative juices in youngsters, and they have a lot of fun doing it!

The Camp Invention program this year consisted of five exciting modules designed to provide a unique opportunity to explore the unknown, tinker with ideas, and satisfy an innate sense of curiosity. Children must tap into their creativity to solve real-world challenges and work as a team, using problem-solving as a portal to discovery. Renowned for the difference it’s making nationwide, this enrichment program provides a safe, creative outlet for children to extend school year learning through fun, hands-on activities that develop important life skills that prepare them for the 21st century.

For more about Camp Invention, go to this site:

Monday, June 28, 2010

Indian Paintbrush

For the past 15 years or so, my wife, Ann, and I have been collecting plants twice weekly to display at the live plant exhibit at Headwaters Science Center. It is interesting to note how every year unfolds differently as to the sequence and species composition of the wild flowers. This year for example, Indian paintbrush is unusually abundant in the fields and roadsides, probably due to the abundance of rain and just the right temperatures. It surely does look like a paintbrush with red paint was applied in random strokes across the landscape. It’s too bad so many people have decided to mow down everything from the edge of the road to the woods edge, replacing plants like Indian paintbrush, black-eyed Susans and gay feather with the monotony of short, green grass. Why do they do that? Riding mowers just make it too easy! - John and Ann Mathisen

Thursday, June 10, 2010

School Year Revisited

The 2009-2010 school year was one of the busiest ever at Headwaters Science Center. They came by the bus load, or Center staff went to them as part of the outreach program. Over 5,300 visitors from 61 different schools (149 groups of lively kids) from the northern Minnesota area participated in the HSC learning experience. For more information about school visitation options, check this link

Friday, May 21, 2010

Communications Exhibit Grand Opening

June 5
Exhibit Grand Opening!

The first phase of HSC’s new Communications Exhibit is ready for use. The working telegraph has been a popular attraction throughout the winter, with many visitors busy sending Morse Code messages from one station to the other. The telegraph segment, sponsored by Paul Bunyan Telephone, is the first of many that will feature the history of communication from smoke signals to present-day wireless technology.

The official grand opening of the exhibit will be Saturday, June 5. By that time we’ll have prototypes for signage and informational displays on which we will welcome comments in order to improve the presentation for its final configuration.

Throughout the afternoon on that day we’ll have coffee, punch, and snacks for all visitors. There will be door prizes, gifts, and special discounts in the store.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Headwaters Science Center/Lions Club Fundraiser

Here is your chance to help HSC get some badly needed funds. Please donate items for the Bemidji Lions Club Charity Auction, and HSC will receive a portion of the proceeds. This will be a huge community event sponsored by the Lions Club on June 26, 2010 at Beltrami County Fairgrounds. See this link for all the details.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Birdwatching Program at HSC

Friday Science for Homeschoolers at Headwaters Science Center will feature Bird Watching/Monitoring and Binoculars, with Chris Tolman.

Birdwatching is fun, fascinating, and free. It’s as easy as watching the birds in your own backyard. Many people love to feed the birds, but few people actually know all ...the different birds that come to dine at their feeders. Come join us for birdwatching 101 and learn some basics that will make bird identification easier. We’ll talk about size, shape, behavior, and where to look for specific details and how to use a reference book. We’ll cover basic bird feeder tips and what to feed to attract a variety of birds. We’ll also cover binocular use and buying tips. You’ll learn how you can get involved as a Citizen Scientist – how to collect data that is used in actual research. After all that (weather permitting) we’ll get into the fun stuff… going outside to look for birds. We’ll put our newly acquired skills to the test and see how many different species of birds we can identify. This program is geared for family participation. It is open to the public and anyone is welcome to attend. Pre-registration is required; class size is limited. Fee is $6.00 per student. Class will be held at Headwaters Science Center, 413 Beltrami Ave in downtown Bemidji from 2:00 – 4:00pm, Friday May 21st. For more information or to register please call Chris at 444-4472 or email

Friday, April 30, 2010

Camp Invention August 2-6 at HSC


This summer, invest in the skills that will help children achieve their full potential throughout the school year. Nonprofit Invent Now Kids premier program, Camp Invention, is a weeklong adventure in creativity. Your children will experience inquiry-based learning through fun activities that will help them unleash their creative genius.

The Camp Invention program consists of five exciting modules that are designed to provide a unique opportunity to explore the unknown, tinker with ideas, and satisfy and satisfy an innate sense of curiosity. Children must tap into their creativity to solve real-world challenges and work as a team, using problem-solving as a portal to discovery. Renowned for the difference its making nationwide, this enrichment program provides a safe, creative outlet for children to extend school year learning through fun, hands-on activities that develop important life skills that prepare them for the 21st century.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Regional Advisory Group is Planned

by Laddie Elwell, Director

The Headwaters Science Center staff and board need your ideas as planning continues for an exciting future. We hope that some of you will be interested in working as volunteers toward the development of the new HSC and will come in or call to leave your names and contact information. You will have an opportunity to take part in bringing an important asset to northern Minnesota!

Headwaters Science Center had planned to start on the detailed design of a much-needed new facility this year and was included in the bonding bill that Minnesota’s House of Representatives and Senate passed and sent to Governor Pawlenty for his signature. Though he had been informed about the 23-county-plus regional area served by HSC, the Governor saw it as a “local project,” and explained his line-item veto of the Center in his letter to the legislature by saying that “The bill contains too many appropriations for local projects, which are funded while some statewide priority needs are disregarded.”

There may be an opportunity to approach the State for partial funding for design in 2011, according to area legislators.

In addition to serving the general public, HSC serves schools and other groups in northern Minnesota and is a regional tourist attraction. It also works with other regional nonprofit organizations in helping them to serve their clients. In 2009 the Center served almost 30,000 visitors, many of whom traveled over 150 miles to Bemidji.

Future plans for the Science Center include increased collaboration with Bemidji State University, Bemidji Technical College, regional tribal colleges, and a number of local and regional nonprofit organizations including the Early Childhood Initiative and other social and environmental groups. The new Center will have an astronomy facility that will be available for use by other educational institutions, and intends to provide research opportunities for college students and school students at the middle and high school level with particular emphasis on water resources, biology, child development, and education.

Recent studies show that the United States has fallen from its foremost position as a leader in scientific fields and now ranks we behind many nations in turning out college graduates in science based fields. Research indicates that a majority of K-12 students have mediocre introductions to the processes and fields of science. Early and pleasurable exposure to science is important in encouraging youth to enter such fields. Many adults do not see the science that surrounds them in their everyday lives, nor do they understand the importance of knowing some basic biological and physical facts in the maintenance of personal health.

Headwaters Science Center provides a number of programs for persons of all ages as well as workshops for teachers. Present space limitations prevent HSC from reaching its potential, though new exhibits and programs are in the planning stages. The new building will be built on land provided by the City of Bemidji along the Mississippi River between Lakes Irving and Bemidji.

May Newsletter Available

Headwater Science Center offers their quarterly newsletter for on-line viewing at this site. Headwaters Current contains all the news, events and other exciting things going on at the Center.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Wild Flower Extravaganza Begins

Unique to HSC is a wild plant exhibit, maintained by botanist Ann Mathisen, a dedicated volunteer. The exhibit is refreshed twice weekly during the growing period, providing a glimpse of the phenology of wild plants as the season progresses. It is located in the lobby area at the Center and there is no admission fee. Shown here is the Pasque Flower, the very first of the spring wild flowers in the Bemidji, Mn area.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

HSC Summer Programs

Beginning June 10 Summer Science Club (for ages 8-13) will meet 10 times throughout the summer at the Science Center from 2:00 to 4:00 on Thursdays. Activities will cover a wide range of physical science topics. Non-Members: any 5 sessions for $50, all 10 for $95; Members: any 5... sessions for $45, all 10 for $85. Advance registration is encouraged.

Beginning June 9 Discovery Science (for ages 5-7) will meet 10 times throughout the summer at the Science Center from 1:00 to 2:00 on Wednesdays. Activities will cover a wide range of natural and physical science topics. Non-Members: any 5 sessions for $45, all 10 for $85; Members: any 5 sessions for $40, all 10 for $75. Advance registration is encouraged.

Beginning June 9 Tots-N-Science (for ages 3-5) will meet 10 times throughout the summer at the Science Center from 10:00 to 11:00 on Wednesdays. Sessions will cover a wide range of natural and physical science topics featuring stories, hands-on activities and games to help children learn about the world around them. Adults must accompany children. Please pre­register by the day before the program. Non-Members: for 1 adult and 1 child, $10, each additional child $4; Members: for 1 adult and 1 child $3, each additional child $1.

Camp Invention (for kids currently in grades K-5) will run daily from August 2- 6 from 9:00 to 3:30. Inquiry-based learning through fun activities will help them unleash their creative genius! Cost is $210 per child.