Once a science teacher, always a science teacher

Art Payne talks with a student about his science fair project at Murray Middle School.

Art Payne talks with a student about his science fair project at Murray Middle School.

Art Payne was willing to mentor another student in the science fair at Murray Middle School this year. I noticed him sitting, laughing and talking with Henry in the back prep area of the Murray science department. They were discussing how to set up a laser and measure the mass of the sample on the electronic balance.

It was fun listening to them laugh, get serious and work through the problems of doing a science fair experiment.

Payne, a retired Murray science teacher, has mentored many students since the early 1980s, starting with a few students who wanted to participate in an optional science fair when Murray had just transitioned from a grades 7-12 high school to a grades 7-8 junior high. Since then, the Murray science fair has become an iconic tradition for the school and neighborhood that has been developing scientists and intelligent, informed citizens for decades.

Murray has a reputation of many proud students representing their school with qualified projects every year at the Twin Cities Regional Science Fair (TCRSF). The Murray staff is proud of their efforts and hard work. More students have gone on to the regional and state science fairs than any other school in the area. No one is more dedicated to the science fair and the process than Payne.

Besides developing the Murray fair, he has been working with the Twin Cities Regional Science Fair for the past few years. He should be proud of his legacy and all of the students he has mentored over the years.

His former Murray students now span everything from astronomers to native species specialists to interns at the National Institutes of Health.

Several students who have gone through the Murray science fair chose to do projects at the senior high level. There was no support at the high school level, so Payne sponsored them, going through the paperwork and making sure all procedures were safe and approved before the experiments were started. Many of them went on to the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).

One student did his project on insect habitat fragmentation and is now finishing up his doctorate in entomology at the University of Georgia. Two other students from Harding High School went on to ISEF by doing a native plant survey of the Phalen Lake area.

My favorite story is of how Emily Letournou and Anna Bishop did a project on the antibacterial effects of honey. These students were offered scholarships and jobs by the judges.

While Payne was vacationing with his wife, Judy, and touring the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz., he realized that what he was learning from the tour guide was related to Henry’s science fair project. Once a science teacher, always a science teacher. He was so excited to bring back the information to Henry.

If anyone is interested in judging these amazing student projects at Murray’s annual science fair on Tuesday, Jan. 13, contact Stefanie Folkema at 651-293-8740 or email her at stefanie.folkema@spps.org.

Tim Chase is a science teacher at Murray Middle School.

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