CHAMPAIGN — There's not much that will make elementary- and middle-schoolers want to go back to class during summer break, but Parkland College's "Messy Science" camp might do the trick.
It's one of several the college is hosting this summer as part of its College for Kids program, which looks to educate 8- to 13-year-olds on potential career options within the science, technology, engineering, arts and math fields.
"Messy Science" is exactly what it sounds like: Using fun and messy experiments, the course looks to introduce students to the scientific method and teach them to be more curious with the work they do. Experiments included creating bouncy slime, making a lava lamp, producing snow, making exploding jelly and creating plastic out of whole milk.
The experiments were chosen by Becky Frederick, a Judah Christian teacher from Urbana. She said she picked them for their ability to help keep the kids engaged.
"I hope that the children take away the ability to ask questions," she said while wearing her white lab coat. "I hope they become more curious with each experiment, allowing them to take guesses and experiment more."
Engagement did not seem difficult.
"I like to do experiments," said Ethan Lyons, 11, of Homer. "These are even better because they are messy."
Other campers also latched on to the camp's title.
"Messy sounds like fun," said Camille Ulozas, 9, of Champaign, whose favorite experiment was creating fake snow. She was surprised with the ingredients involved.
"I joined the camp because I like explosions," said Cole Henderson, 10 of Mahomet, whose favorite experiment was, understandably, creating exploding jelly, though he enjoyed the others, as well.
"I like it because I'm not at home playing 'Fortnite,'" he said, referencing the popular video game.
The students were not the only ones getting a learning experience.
Natalie King of Tolono, a sophomore at Ripon College majoring in elementary education and psychology, was acting as a teacher assistant at the camp, getting a feel for different subjects and observing science education.
"It's my first day here," she said. "It's all new to me, but the kids make the science fun. I really like kids.
"It is interesting to be on the teacher's side," she said. "I've never been in that side before, and it's so weird, since you are normally used to being a student."