The phrase "Sugar and spice and everything nice" has taken on a new meaning for preteen girls in the Spa Science class as part of the Kids and College Summer Academy at McHenry County College.
Not only did girls in second through ninth grades create a spa experience using natural ingredients for scented bath soaps and lotions, they learned the science behind it. The young scientists learned how to use chemical reactions, heat, and light to make products that harden, change colors, fizz in the bathtub or become aromatic perfumes.
The Spa Science class is one of many Kids and College summer programs for grade school through high school students and introduces them to exciting careers in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields.
Before each hands-on project, Kids and College instructor Teresa Kurz explained the science behind each project, including noting the difference between acids, bases and pH levels and how different ingredients can make hands and feet feel smooth and silky. Thirty-four girls were divided into a morning session for second- through fifth-graders and an afternoon session of sixth- through ninth-graders.
Throughout the four-day class, students invented their own lotions, gels, shower jelly, lip balm and potpourri scents using natural ingredients. In addition, the students used essential oils, including vanilla and citrus and stirred up a variety of "spa water" flavors using natural ingredients such as basil, mint, raspberry lemon and ginger.
The sixth- through ninth-graders created an "Ultimate Spa" experience for their parents or siblings on the last day of class, where they transformed the classroom into a softly-lit "spa" filled with citrus fragrance. The girls treated their guests to foot baths, hand massages, and melon or cucumber water and fresh fruit for refreshment.
"The students learn science, health and the marketing of a spa business," Kurz said. "Not only do they explore lighting, atmosphere and music for a spa experience, they invent their own scents using essential oils and learn the benefits of those. My goal is to have them understand the basic recipes for cleansing, skin care, moisturizers and bath."
Several of the students said they enjoyed creating bath bombs using baking soda, citric acid, dye and an essential oil. When they plopped it in their foot baths, it fizzed around their toes.
"It's been a good experience," said Jessica Cunningham, 11, of Crystal Lake. "I've learned how to make soaps and bath bombs," adding that her team invented their own scent of grapefruit vanilla.
"It's fun," said Ella Kortz, 10, of Cary. "It's a way for me to relax and meet new girls," she said. "My favorite part was making the bath bombs. It's fun to watch them fizz in the water."
Vedika Shah, 12, of Prairie Grove, summed up her spa class experience by saying, "I love how this class combines something that all girls love, with science, which is something we all can learn from."
On the first day of Spa Science class, the students shared with Kurz that the purpose of the spa was to make them more beautiful, so Kurz saw that as a teachable moment.
"I was happy to use their beliefs as an opportunity to teach the girls that they could not be more beautiful than they already are," Kurz said. "True beauty is felt from within through natural products, healthy habits, hydration, and relaxing environments. However, telling is not teaching, so I challenged them to create the 'Ultimate Spa Experience' to prove my point.
The girls learned concepts in science and put that knowledge to use in practical ways by engineering solutions and creating technologies, which is what STEM is all about, Kurz added.
"The challenge to create the Ultimate Spa Experience was met," Kurz said proudly. "The girls and their guests walked away feeling good and there is nothing more beautiful than that."
In addition to STEM classes, the Kids and College program also includes full-day College Readiness Camps and half-day academic/enrichment camps. This summer, a total of 925 students have enrolled in the Kids and College program where they participated in hands-on activities such as design an aerospace crew exploration vehicle, create 3-D tiny houses to scale on AutoCAD, create digital art and animation and compete in a Top Teen Chef Challenge.
For information on MCC's Kids and College Program, visit www.mchenry.edu/kidsandcollege