Asbury's Kids College Ignites Love for Science

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WILMORE, Ky. — “I love science!” said kindergartener Natalie Spencer, jumping up and down beside her parents’ car in the Kinlaw Library parking lot. “It’s my favorite thing in the whole world. Except for mac and cheese.”

Natalie, her sister Isabella and their parents visited Asbury University on Saturday, not for mac and cheese, but for biology, chemistry and physics, served up fresh for Asbury’s annual Kid’s College event.

Hosted by Asbury’s chapter of Sigma Zeta, a national math and science honors society, Kids College gave 240 students from kindergarten to eighth grade hands-on experience in biology, chemistry and physics labs.

“I’m really excited to see what they come away with,” said Keith Spencer, father of Natalie and Isabella. An environmental scientist himself, Spencer says he hopes Kids College will not only increase children’s knowledge, but promote their enthusiasm and interest in science.

Ben and Andrea Bottorff, home-schooling parents from Henryville, Ind., registered three of their children for Kids College after reading about the event in a home-school newsletter. Ben Bottorff, a high school chemistry and physics teacher, says the benefit of Kid’s College is a hand-on learning experience that carries young students past intimidating technical details.

“As a way to introduce them to science, I think it’s going to be fun and spark an interest,” he said. “I want them to see that science isn’t just all this technical stuff you hear about all the time, but that it can be fun.”

Andrea Bottorff says the college setting was beneficial for her oldest daughter, Olivia. “Because she’s homeschooled, she doesn’t usually get that kind of classroom feel,” Bottorff said.

The experience, both intellectual and tactile, is what fascinates kids, according to Ann Witherington, Asbury biology professor.

“We try to keep it upbeat and very hands-on, so science is very approachable,” she said. “In the biology lab, they’re doing plants, and it’s all about touching and smelling. They’re looking at earth, coconuts, and giant pinecones. There’s the excitement of discovery in chemistry, surprises with chemical reactions, and in physics there are all kinds of interesting things — you never know what will come next.”

Witherington says Kids College has grown in popularity through the years, not through advertising, but by word-of mouth. Even with two sessions, Witherington says registration usually fills up the day it opens.

“The program has certainly expanded,” she said. “I know some families have come from long distances, because the word is out. The word-of-mouth report from people who have attended has obviously been very positive.”

--by Joel Sams ’15

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