SSFP Students Attend Space Science Conference, Visit Historic Pump House in La Crosse



For years, science education has been an important part of the Simpson Street Free Press curriculum – so has museum trips. Recently, I joined other teen editors for a wonderful weekend in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where we attended the annual Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium Conference and the famous Pump House Regional Arts Center.

SSFP staff and students have long valued our relationship with the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium (WSGC), According to their website, the WSGC aims “to contribute to the nation’s scientific enterprise by funding research, education, and public service projects.” Every month, the WSGC publishes one space-science themed SSFP article on its website. This means that the WSGC a pretty big reputation around SSFP newsrooms.

Excited to learn more about the conference ahead and the Pump House turned into an art center, teen editors, Michelle Chi, Amie Kabera, and I packed into editor Taylor Kilgore’s car early one Thursday morning. With car snacks, notebooks, and pencils in our hands, we planned for the adventure to come.

We had a fun morning on the road and especially loved seeing the beautiful bluffs that line the highway on the way into La Crosse. Once we arrived to the city, we checked into the conference. After settling in, we spent the day learning from scientists, space science experts, and UW-System students about recent innovations in the field. We also had the opportunity to make a presentation to the experts and students about our own space-science research and articles. Though speaking in front of the big group was a little nerve-wracking at first, I ended up feeling really empowered by the experience!

On the second day of our LaCrosse trip, we walked to the Pump House Reginal Arts Center to learn more about its fascinating history and role in La Crosse. The Pump House was first built in 1880 to protect the city from fire. The original institution could provide up to two-and-a-half million gallons of water a day. As the city grew, however, so did its need for a bigger building. Eventually, the Pump House was enlarged so that it could pump 12.5 million gallons of water daily.

In 1977, Western Wisconsin Regional Arts remodeled the Pump House for the sole purpose of using it as a regional center for the visual and performing arts. And in July of 1979, the state officially recognized the Pump House as a historic building.

Today, the Pump house is home to three art galleries, an art studio complete with a kiln, and a small theater. When I walked in the Pump House, there were unique art pieces displayed all over the room, ranging from photographs, wood carving to reusable tools.

One of the artists whose work was displayed was Timothy Jacobson. He is a landscape photographer and an Emmy Award winning documentary filmmaker. Most of his life was spent in the Driftless Region and he strives to capture its beauty through photography and filmmaking.

Visiting the Pump House was an intriguing experience. It was also cool to switch into history-gear after a morning of STEM-learning.

We were sad to leave La Crosse the next day, though we had plenty to think about on our drive home. We are very grateful to Chris Thompson at WSGC, to all those we met at the conference, and to and the folks at the Pump House for an awesome weekend. We already can’t wait to have another La Crosse adventure!

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