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LMS parent helps paint life-sized periodic table

Lake Middle School parent-volunteer Karen Seiffert spent roughly 100 hours painting a life-sized version of the periodic table of the elements at LMS.

At the beginning of this school year, Lake Middle School science teacher Logan Carstensen thought the back wall of his classroom could use a little something extra, so he approached parents about painting the periodic table of elements on it.

"I thought it would be nice," he said. "I didn't have much on the back wall, so I thought we could have something to look at that would serve a purpose."

In stepped longtime parent-volunteer Karen Seiffert, whose children are in eighth grade.

"I've been involved since my children started school," she said. "Things kind of dwindled as kids get a little older, so this was an opportunity for something that I could still be working on."

Seven months and 100 hours later, Carstensen's wall is now adorned with a life-sized periodic table.

"It can add some brightness and interest into the room because not everybody finds the periodic table stimulating, so at least you can make it fancy and fun," Seiffert said.

A periodic project

When Carstensen sent out a request to parents for help with the project, Seiffert jumped at the chance.

"I thought it would be interesting for the children," she said, "and educational and brighten up the classroom."

The first step Seiffert took was to brush up on the periodic table, which lists every natural element - each of which is highlighted with its acronym.

"Starting out we had to open up the back of the book because my learning of the periodic table was quite some time ago," she said.

Next, Seiffert went through a lot of the logistics for the project by taking measurements and figuring out how the table would best fit on the wall.

"Next, we got some different paint colors," she said. "It's not artsy, but you are painting within the lines and trying to make everything stand out."

Seiffert said for the first few months she spent five to seven hours each week painting the wall.

The next challenge Seiffert faced was how she was going to get the symbols for all of the elements onto the wall.

Seiffert tossed around the idea of trying to paint them freehand and using stencils.

Eventually, Seiffert's dilemma was solved by another LMS parent, Stephen Joseph, who works at 3M.

Joseph was able to laser print all of the elements.

"Then it was a lot of work on centering things," she said.

Seiffert is no stranger to helping out at the school.

Over the years, Seiffert has helped out with literature circles, math groups, arts fair programs and various sewing projects since her children were in elementary school.

"I love the energy from the kids," she said. "It's so much fun."

Seiffert said one of her favorite aspects of being a parent volunteer is watching the students she's gotten to know over the years grow.

"You get to know groups of children, so you start getting a better understanding of what they're like today," she said. "Plus, it helps you understand your kids more and your community more - these kids are the future of our country."

LMS principal Molly Roeske said it's the parent-volunteers like Seiffert who help the school run.

"Karen has been invaluable to our school," she said. "It really brings the community into the school."

Both Roeske and Seiffert said the new periodic table in Carstensen's classroom will add a great deal to students' learning.

"You can always project something like that on the wall," Roeske said, "but this really makes it live."

Seiffert said she believes it might help make the Periodic Table more interesting for students.

"It's bright, so it's going to attract their attention," she said. "They might get much more comfortable with it because they're going to see it much more often."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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