published Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Gifted camp: Walker program gets talented students 'out of the box'


by Kelli Gauthier
Mattie Day, left, shows a box containing caterpillars to Aubree Bagwell as Walker County elementary school children participate in summer camp for gifted students Wednesday at the LaFayette Middle School. 
Staff Photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Mattie Day, left, shows a box containing caterpillars to Aubree Bagwell as Walker County elementary school children participate in summer camp for gifted students Wednesday at the LaFayette Middle School. Staff Photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press

LaFAYETTE, Ga. — A watched chicken egg never hatches.

That was, among other things, what students in Walker County Schools’ gifted program learned Wednesday at a summer enrichment camp at LaFayette Middle School.

So, instead of playing with fluffy chicks, students decorated pots for sunflower plants, mixed chemical reactions in plastic bags and watched tadpoles swim and worms dig in teacher Jill Day’s science classroom.

The chickens should hatch today.

“This is fun, kinda,” said elementary student Elijah Guthrie, as he mixed a sandwich bag full of purple goo that used to be water, calcium chloride and baking soda.

“Is this going to make it smoke or blow up?” asked 8-year-old McIver Ensley.

The camp, created last year as a capstone project for new teachers working toward gifted certification, was so popular that the county decided to offer it again. This year the program for kids in grades two to five was for three hours a day for three days.

In camp this year, students got to do things such as make their own trail mix recipes, collect fingerprints off the side of a fish tank, make their own butter and practice origami.

“[They] said to make it the fun things that we enjoy teaching that we don’t often get to teach, because we have to stay on target with the standards,” Rock Spring Elementary gifted teacher Shawn Turner said.

Since the camp no longer is a requirement for teachers to earn their gifted certification, the 12 educators running it are volunteers, said Chastity Steadman, an eighth-grade math teacher at LaFayette Middle who leads the camp. Snacks and supplies are funded through each student’s $30 registration fee.

“The whole idea is to do something out of the box that you can’t do in a regular classroom,” she said. “Teachers get to do something they’re interested in pursuing with kids that they couldn’t normally do.”

Steadman said one of the best things about the camp is that it helps promote curiosity among the school district’s best and brightest.

“It’s multi-age, which they don’t usually get,” she said. “And they get to be with students of their own ability and interest.”

Evan Scoggins, a rising fourth-grader at North LaFayette Elementary School, said that after last year’s camp he was excited to come back this year.

“I just thought it was pretty cool last year, so I figured if I liked it that much last year, chances are, I’d like it this year,” said the 9-year-old, whose favorite class this year was on optical illusions.

Contact Kelli Gauthier at kgauthier@timesfreepress.com or 423 757-6249. Find her online at facebook.com/reportergauthier or twitter.com/gauthierkelli.

about Kelli Gauthier...

Kelli Gauthier covers K-12 education in Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She started at the paper as an intern in 2006, crisscrossing the region writing feature stories from Pikeville, Tenn., to Lafayette, Ga. She also covered crime and courts before taking over the education beat in 2007. A native of Frederick, Md., Kelli came south to attend Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. Before newspapers, ...

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