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Youth conference takes to wetlands for math, science lessons (Video)


June 11, 2013 at 1:11 a.m.
Updated June 12, 2013 at 1:12 a.m.

Lexi Morris, 12, of Mission Valley, tries to blow the biggest bubble while her friends, Breanna Butler, 12, of Victoria, left; Chelsie Voigt, 12, of Victoria, right; and Delynn Pesek, 12, of Shiner, far right, watch during the Victoria Business and Education Coalition's  YOUth LEADership conference's visit to the Invista Wetlands in Victoria. They were learning about the scientific method by trying different experiments with bubbles such as various straws, shapes of bubbles and surfaces to blow them on.

The 12-year-old was methodical, if not overly serious, when it came to the task at hand. Lexi Morris grabbed her colored straw, dipped it in Joy and, with head bent toward the table, set to blowing soap bubbles.

"My biggest bubble was 30 centimeters," the Cade Middle School student said proudly, although it was tablemate Breanna Butler's 49-centimeter bubble that broke the day's record.

The soap-spattered experiment was part of the Victoria Business and Education Coalition's weeklong YOUth LEADership conference, an annual event aimed at helping incoming seventh graders hone in their leadership skills, said Lanell Mantey, VBEC's executive director.

This year's conference drew 100 students from all throughout the Eagle Ford Shale drilling region, she said.

Monday's events included a rock wall climb with a lesson about goal setting, while a demonstration later this week by a dog trainer highlights how obedience helps people reach new opportunities.

Tuesday's visit to the Invista Wetlands was all about the value of math and science.

The bubble project, for instance, taught variables in scientific experiments, said Wetland Educator John Snyder. Although the students used the same type of soap throughout their experiment, the straw's diameter changed.

They also got some practice in measuring using the metric system.

"I love this," Snyder said, looking out over the young scientists. "It's a good lesson, and they have fun."

Tuesday's event wasn't entirely soap-centric, however.

While one group blew bubbles, another set off for a nature walk, taking in the plant life, birds and even a baby alligator they found lounging on a pier.

One encounter came a bit too close for comfort for Summer Postell, a Goliad Intermediate School student who braved the muggy walk.

"That time the water moved, something stuck its head out," the freckle-faced girl said, adjusting her dark ponytail. "I think it was an alligator. I think it ate a bird."

For Ian Brewer, who attends Austwell-Tivoli High School, the nature walk was a good way to get back to a subject he loves.

The 12-year-old recently moved from Rockport, he said, where he was a member of his school's birding club.

"I've had fun," he said of the conference in general. "I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next."

Amy Hodges, Invista's regional public affairs manager, said in an email that Invista was proud to serve as a corporate sponsor for this year's conference.

"Through the fun experiments that are part of our wetland education program, we hope we can inspire the students to see the possibilities of science and math and pursue a career in engineering, process technology or science education," she wrote.

As for Lexi, whose favorite part of the morning was the nature walk, she said she enjoyed the day's activities.

Still, that wasn't all. Learning more about leadership was another bonus.

"My parents have always told me I've been a big leader in some of my friends' lives," she said. "I think this is a great experience."



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