Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

June 15, 2010

Getting gross at camp

Program makes learning fun by capitalizing on children’s fascination with the disgusting

Mike James
The Independent

ASHLAND — Without waiting for an introduction, Sunni Walters brandished a baggie of red goop and confided in a visitor: “We made blood! Yesterday we made snot!”

Sunni, 7, and other children sitting at a science lab table didn’t seem at all put off by the viscous red liquid pooled in the corners of their plastic bags. They held the bags up to the light to admire the crimson glow, mashed them on the table to watch the blood ooze about, and opened the bags from time to time to take an experimental sniff.

It was not real blood, of course. The children made it from corn syrup, corn starch, red food coloring and other kitchen-cabinet items.

The snot was of similar manufacture. For the rest of the week and all of next week, the children will turn their attention to poop, spit and barf. They will make scabs and study bugs. Those who make it to the end of the second week will dissect owl pellets.

The class is called Grossology and the lesson plans are based on the book of the same name by Sylvia Branzai.

It’s part of the annual College Camp at Ashland Community and Technical College, two weeks of fun and education for ages 6 through 13.

Grossology teaches science by capitalizing on the natural affinity children have for all things creepy, gooey, slimy and smelly, according to instructor Grace Gooding.

“They love gross things. They like to learn about the world around them,” Gooding said. “They want to know about snot but they think it’s rude to ask people about snot.”

The Grossology class puts topics of questionable taste on a scientific footing, making it OK to talk about, she explained.

“I like things that are gross because they look all gooey and stuff,” said Nina Heister, 8.

Gooding precedes each activity with a short presentation outlining the underlying science. Before making blood the children learned about its components and the circulatory system.

“We found out what’s in blood and how it travels all through the body,” said Reed Daniels, 9.

They learned about platelets, plasma and leeches.

Some of them learned that smearing a pile of spilled cornstarch on the table and then clapping their hands together was a good way to make clouds.

Grossology is just one of the classes at College Camp. Other youngsters are learning to dance, play guitar, plant gardens and write poetry. They are discussing books, working out,  surfing the Internet and studying animals.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.