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At Deanna Rose Farmstead, summer puts science front and center

Jun 9, 2016 12:00 AM

Summertime means science time at the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead, whether it’s examining the scales of a fish or looking a squirmy earthworm under a microscope.

The farmstead is hosting Mad Science classes on Mondays until July 25 for kids ages 4 to 12 to learn about topics ranging from butterflies to farm animals.

The Friends of the Farmstead have partnered with the local franchise of Mad Science, a company that offers science camps and workshops, for the program. The camps run from 9 a.m. to noon on Mondays.

“It doesn’t matter what age group or subject — science is interactive, so it lends itself to really authentic learning. … It takes them from theoretical to practical,” said Kathryn Walter, a Mad Science instructor who also teaches at Blue Valley Middle School.

The first class had a horticulture focus, and kids ages 4-7 participated in projects to make lima beans sprout, learned how to plant yellow celosia flowers, took a tour of the farmstead garden adn looked at an earthworm under a microscope.Miles Raymond, a master gardener from Olathe who helps maintain the garden at the farmstead, said he shows kids the edible plants in the garden all the time, but the children rarely offer to eat the plants.

“Every one of (the Mad Science participants) wanted to try it,” Raymond said. “I want them to see, taste and feel.”

As part of the learning process, the kids each planted a flower in a planter at the farmstead and took an identical one home so they could compare the two throughout the summer whenever they come back to the farmstead.

The experience is a good time for both the kids and the teachers.

“I like science, and I definitely like working with kids and introducing them to things they never knew before,” said James Refenes, a Mad Science instructor who also teaches at Richard Warren Middle School in Leavenworth.

The Mad Science camps were started last summer, after Mad Science had some booths at the farmstead’s annual Night of the Living Farm Halloween program the previous fall.

“We started last year with one-day camps for (ages) 6 to 12,” said Kathy Smythe, co-owner of the Kansas City-area franchises of Mad Science. “It keeps building on what we started with.”

This year, the camps are only in the mornings, partly because of the heat later in the afternoons. In addition, this summer, they will not repeat any of the weekly themes. Some of the themes include Life of a Fish, Birds and Beasts and Mad Mixtures and Worms.

“Last year, we repeated some camps, and we had disappointed people who wanted to do every Monday,” said Kathi Limbocker, education supervisor at the farmstead. “Everything’s a new topic, so they can either pick and choose or they can do the whole summer.”

Mad Science also offers different programs with other local venues, including Johnson County Parks and Recreation, Blue Valley Recreation Center and Olathe Parks and Recreation.

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