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There’s a “berry” special focus on the STEM program at the Boys & Girls Club of the Wisconsin Rapids Area — cranberries.

The program was created last summer, and participants finished a session of the program with a visit Tuesday to the Crimson Star Cranberry Co. in Grant.

“They learn all about the cranberry industry in our community, while enhancing their skills and knowledge in science, technology, engineering and math,” said Jill Kurszewski, development director for the club.

The pilot program was held last summer, said Rob Wefel, executive director for the club.

“We wanted to pilot the program to get (children) more involved with STEM-related activities and to reinforce what they were learning in school,” Wefel said. “We wanted to come up with a creative way to enhance our STEM activities with something local the kids could tie back into.”

Each of the program’s sessions has its own theme: In “Sustain and Grow,” the focus was on sustainable energy — wind power and wind energy — and the members built mini-wind turbines, Wefel said. “Cranberry Carriers” discussed Newton’s Law of Motion, and the children built Rube Goldberg machines to move cranberry-related products from one point to another.

“The last session that we’re just kind of wrapping up on is ‘Volume Variables,’ with a focus on how the harvest was cultivated and moved,” Wefel said.

“Kids get a better picture on just how much product can be generated,” he said.

The children got to walk into a dry marsh, find cranberries that hadn’t been picked last season and see other parts of the business, including the irrigation system.

“We learned a lot of stuff,” said Kali Henry, 13.

In addition to the life cycle of the cranberry, Kali said she also learned how cranberries are used.

“You can make anything from cranberries,” she said. “The possibilities are endless, almost endless.”

Prior to and after each session, the participants are tested — not for grades, but to allow staff members to gather feedback on how well the program is working, and to show accountability when it comes to grant applications.

As the cranberry sessions wrap up, the club will be looking for different areas of focus for future STEM projects.

“We really want them to be hands on,” Wefel said. “It’s more engaging, and the kids have fun.”

It’s not just the young members having fun and learning new things, Wefel said.

“We, as an organization, learned a ton,” he said.

Deb Cleworth can be reached as 715-423-7200, ext.6730 or deb.cleworth@cwnews.net. Follow her on Twitter @DebCleworth.

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