On April 26, 2011, Kansas State University opened the doors to its third campus, in Olathe, a suburb of Kansas City, Kansas. While all four campuses are united under the K-State family umbrella, K-State Olathe stands out from the pack in many ways.
Not only does the campus have a strong foothold in professional development and adult education, but K-State Olathe also is the first higher education facility supported by a local tax. In 2008, Johnson County residents voted in support of the Johnson County Education Research Triangle one-eighth cent sales tax, which funded the Olathe campus.
This is one of many examples of the K-State family taking care of its own, and the door swings both ways. K-State Olathe and the greater K-State community recognized the Kansas City area's generosity and were determined to give back. In addition to community events and professional opportunities, the campus developed an extensive K-12 outreach program.
Christine Splichal, K-State Olathe's director of communications and marketing, said the K-12 programs are focused on strengthening science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM — education in schools.
"K-12 STEM education is a key part of our campus mission," Splichal said. "We have student groups that visit campus for lab experiences to build their knowledge of science-based careers and encourage an enthusiasm for STEM. Besides a range of programs offered in area schools, our campus also offers hands-on internships for high school students.”
The K-12 outreach programs serve all students, although some are geared toward certain ages. For example, the Food Safety and Food Science curriculum reinforces classroom concepts and provides real-world lab experiences in different ways for various ages. Elementary-age students:
- Learn about the water cycle by constructing a mini-watershed.
- Discover more about river sources for drinking water.
- Build homemade water filters.
- Explore how to prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases.
Older students often require a different approach. Junior high and high school students participating in the Food Safety and Food Science curriculum:
- Compare medicine in the 1860s to present time.
- Take a facility tour of our research labs.
- Listen to veterinarians explain their profession and how it helps the animal health industry.
- Trace the contamination of a foodborne illness back to a single ingredient.
Additionally, one of K-State Olathe's best-kept secrets may be its research field lab experiences program. This experience allows high school students to get a sneak peek at the latest research by working with the researchers themselves. Students have an opportunity to ask questions about STEM careers and learn about internship possibilities.
At K-State Olathe, the possibilities for learners of all ages are endless. Whether it's a kindergartner's first lab experience, or a high school senior exploring careers, this campus understands the importance of paying it forward.
That's the Wildcat Way.