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Bethel College Science faculty, students host Summer Science Institute

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Eight area high school students recently had the opportunity to come to Bethel College and live the life of an undergraduate science student for a week.

The annual Summer Science Institute, which began in June 2000, took place this year June 4-9. Participating students stayed in the dorms, hung out with current Bethel science students and worked on science lab projects with several faculty members.

At the beginning of the week, the students chose the projects they would spend the rest of the week working on. The list of projects to choose from involved work in many different disciplines, including astronomy/astrophysics, environmental science, computational science, robotics, chemistry, molecular genetics, theory of mind and psychology of music.

On Friday, the final day of the Institute, students gave presentations of their findings to an audience of their colleagues, the faculty, family members and friends.

“The students did quite a good job in presenting their work,” said Professor of Psychology Dwight Krehbiel, director of the Institute. “They showed many nice graphs and generated thoughtful discussion. There was a robot created by one student and a chemistry-for-fun demonstration as well.”

Each day consisted of morning and afternoon lab sessions, with built-in time for field trips, discussions and lectures. The evenings were free for entertainment and socializing. Evenings also included a nature walk and a couple of star parties at Mabee Observatory, organized by the faculty.

“We are trying to engage them in the kinds of activities that are normally involved in a scientific investigation—planning the research, learning and carrying out measurement procedures, analyzing the results, and communicating the findings to others,” Krehbiel said.

Bethel senior Jeff Janzen, who helped out with the lab projects, described the camp as “a short immersion into the lab-life of a Bethel College student.”

“The students were treated as college freshmen, viewed as intelligent individuals capable of following instructions, using equipment and understanding relevant concepts, just as college students do,” Janzen continued. “I think it gives the students a considerable head start on college lab work.”

High school students who participated included Ryan Hershberger, Bryan Skinner and Grace Unruh, from Clay Center; Courtney Howard, Derby; Kevin Leary, Newton; Lora Hawkins and Carlee Fessler, Prairie Village; and Hunter Ellsworth, Topeka.

Faculty participants, in addition to Krehbiel, included Karl Friesen, assistant professor of computer science; Gary Histand, associate professor of chemistry; Paul Lewis, professor of psychology; Jon Piper, professor of biology; Luke Schmidt, assistant to the director of Mabee Observatory; and Wayne Wiens, professor of biology.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel web site at

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