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Net Xpress: One of Danville's many gems is its Kids' University

November 29, 2004|SHEILA J. CLARK

Danville is fortunate to be the home to one of the most innovative programs where education and technology have intertwined and have enriched lives abundantly. The program I'm speaking of is Danville Kids' University, also known as DKU.

Educators in the Danville system learned of the Kids' College concept two years ago at the 2002 National Community Education Conference. They took the idea and championed it into a stellar program that already has received additional funding, numerous awards and acclamations from around the nation.

DKU's mission is "to provide a nurturing learning environment that responds to the needs of all participants through research based instruction to strengthen personal performance, educational skills, and self-esteem in order for students to achieve both academically and socially." While it may read like a mighty task to take on, the educators, mentors, parents, students and all others involved in the process make it look effortless.

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DKU is a program that runs eight weeks for students in third through fifth grades. Each Saturday, the kids gather at Bate Middle School to participate in four, theme-oriented class sessions. The classes featured are arts and humanities, language arts, technology and science. The students are divided by group names and they participate in hands-on, interactive lessons where they learn new concepts and experience how fun learning can be.

Each class consits of about 15 students, a certified teacher, an assistant, a middle school mentor and other volunteers. Technology is incorporated into the DKU classes via use of Sony PlayStations and Lightspan problem-solving software. The kids play educational games and also have use of handheld computers.

The program also offers free educational classes for parents to participate in. Among parent classes offered are basic computer skills, Lightspan, and Introductions to Excel, PowerPoint and Word.

Everyone involved in the process has different levels of sacrifices to make in order for the mission to be completed in the eight week program. Some of the sacrifices include getting up early on the weekend, missing Saturday morning cartoons, and going to school an extra day. However, the benefits outweigh the sacrifices. The kids involved get to experience things that they wouldn't ordinarily be able to experience in a normal school setting.

My family has been personally touched by the DKU experience because my eldest son has been a part of the DKU experience since its inception. He has been able to experience a lot of fun and exciting things. In this last session, he learned about space exploration in his Science/Language Arts class, and he was able to make and launch a rocket.

He had the opportunity to ride in a real hot air balloon and he also experienced the STARLAB, a large, inflatable dome that simulates the stars and constellations. He truly has enjoyed every session of DKU and his enthusiasm for DKU has already rubbed off. His little brother is extremely anxious for his chance to attend the program.

The eight weeks of DKU seems to fly by fast; however, the skills and knowledge that the kids learn in DKU continue on with them. Thank you to the Danville school system for providing this great opportunity for our community - and continued success to the DKU program. DKU rocks!

For more information, contact Sandy Embree at (859) 936-8504 or sembree@danville.k12.ky.us, or Kathy Belcher at (859) 238-8586 or kbelcher@danville.k12.ky.us. Visit www.danville.k12.ky.us/district/programs/services/dku/index.wdt.

E-mail me at sheila@amnews.com; fax me at (859) 236-9566; or write me snail-mail at The Advocate-Messenger, P.O. Box 149, Danville, KY 40423-0149.

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