Two friends (and fathers) were having a conversation at Panera. They felt frustrated and curious. ‘Why do kids seem to burn out on science?’ they thought. ‘Why do they write it off as too boring or too difficult?’
Hands-on science and fun
The discussion Shegan Campbell and Keith Norsym had that day stirred a resolution. If they were to make science fun and mysterious, they had to ask questions that kids would wonder about, things like:
Why is the sky blue?
Why do I have to put the milk in the refrigerator?
How does the TV work?
Enter Kids Science Labs, a facility for wonder and the result of those conversations.
“Kids are natural explorers. They need to build, break, mix and inquire to understand our changing world. Using science can be an amazing and important vehicle for problem solving and nurturing an innovator’s mindset,” says Norsym.
Kids ages 2-12 are encouraged to walk in the doors where a giant wall touts messages likes ‘Mistakes are incredibly valuable’ and ‘A child’s capacity to learn is unlimited.’ Classroom are bright and airy with large glass panels, dry-erase walls, tables and chairs and a plethora of items set out for little hands to toy with. Multiple teachers mingle throughout, engaging and encouraging imaginations as curious questions are called out.
Tasks for the day may include constructing 3D skyscrapers, building a battery-powered head lamp or even taking on archaeology via a dinosaur fossil dig. Cups of graham crackers are poised and ready to go for snack time and a wall of individual cubbies organize backpacks and belongings.
At the conclusion of class children return home with their creations so that the wonder of science may then be applied to the activities of everyday life. “Whether it’s summer camp or weekly classes, each child will be introduced to a concept in a very kid-relatable way,” explains Norsym.
“They will have the opportunity to do plenty of hands-on science that they can then take (with them). This ensures that learning can happen at many levels.”
Classes are broken down by age group and may include such topics as ‘Med School – Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes’ (navigating muscle systems, ligament injuries and the function of lungs), ‘Toddler Discovery Science,’ ‘Redesigning our Past & Engineering our Future’ and ‘What’s Inside Nearly Everything’ where mini-scientists will explore the wide-ranging explanations for how things works.
After opening in 2011, KSL has now expanded in the Midwest to Lincoln Park and the South Loop, as well as suburban locations in Northbrook and Naperville/Wheaton. Since Norsym and Campbell are both parents themselves, they recognize that scheduling can be hectic and therefore field trips and parties are also available for reservation at various KSL locations.