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Roque Soto, 12, of Worthington, stuffs the parachute into his rocket during Kids College activities Tuesday afternoon at Minnesota West Community and Technical College. Also working on his rocket at the table is Scott Schnieder, 11, of Worthington. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

Kids College offers new experiences for youngsters

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WORTHINGTON -- With licorice drainage pipes, chocolate pudding soil and M&M "garbage," the young pupils at this unconventional university could agree on one thing.

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Landfills never tasted so good.

Candy-filled cups were used to teach students the parts of a landfill on Wednesday, when students learned a tasty lesson about living green.

It was one of many lessons learned at Kids College, an educational day camp that took place this week at Minnesota West Community and Technical College.

"Everything is about recycling and the environment and ways we can be more conscious and go green," explained Kile Behrends, an academic advisor at Minnesota West who taught the Go Green! course.

"It's just interesting to me, and fun," said sixth-grader Evan Eggers as he recounted Monday's adventures in archery and learning "that garbage goes straight to the landfill."

Kids College, now in its seventh year, offers a series of short classes for Nobles County students in grades 5-8.

About 110 students got a crash course in everything from flower arrangement to rockets (a traditionally favorite course), but they were also able to try out a few of this year's new offerings, including classes in nursing, kite making and numismatics (coin-collecting).

"We hope that they not only familiarize themselves with the college but that they get to experience things they wouldn't experience in a regular classroom setting," said Amber Luinenburg, the Minnesota West campus marketer.

All students are also given college identification cards, which they can use to attend college sporting events for free during the 2009-2010 season.

"For some of the age groups, this is the first time they've been on the college property, so it's fun," Luinenburg said.

Photography and scrapbooking was the favorite class of Worthington sixth-grader Nyakhor Diew "because I get to express myself and I like scrapbooking," said the budding nature photographer.

Fifth-grader Nic Putnum from St. Mary's School liked the rockets course, because "they're fun to launch and catch," he said.

The course on geocaching was a new experience for many students.

"It's basically a global scavenger hunt," explained instructor Kris Doeden.

Serious geocachers search out containers filled with small items of negligible value. They take one item from the container and put something in its place, perhaps a small toy or some coins, she explained.

For Kids College purposes, students used a global positioning system to locate hidden candy caches, or those that contained puzzles.

"It's really about the thrill of the hunt," Doeden said, adding "Kids are the best students because they're not afraid of the technology."

"I thought it was cool the satellites could tell you where (the caches) are. It was interesting," said Sarah Janssen, a Worthington eighth-grader, who enjoyed the college experience overall. "I thought it was fun we got to do all these fun activities and do it with our friends," she added.

Some "graduates" of the college come back as mentors who assist in classroom activities.

"I liked it so much that I wanted to be a mentor," said Paulina Thavixay, now a 10th-grader at Worthington High School. "It was a good opportunity for me because I like seeing kids have fun."

The college is also sponsored by the Nobles County Integration Collaborative. There will be a graduation ceremony for students at 2 p.m. today in the Fine Arts Theater on the Minnesota West campus.

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