Suddenly someone’s car went flying — not rolling — over the table and across the room.
“So, what happened?” asked teacher Teresia Hall.
“It flew,” the students answered.
“But why?” Hall asked.
The students started throwing out hypotheses — too much air in the balloon, not enough weight in the car. Fix it, Hall told them, and they set to work.
That hands-on experimentation, Hall said, is the reason for the gifted program’s summer camp. The camp gives students time to do hands-on work and look more in depth at what they’re studying.
This is the second year Hall has conducted the half-day summer camp at Cobb Elementary. Last year it was just two weeks long. This year it lasts four weeks and 28 students from grades 3-8 are attending.
Gifted and enrichment students are identified by a test given to every second-grader in the state, Hall said. The students who test in the 88th percentile on a standardized test and above are considered gifted or enriched. In Anniston, 1 percent of students have been identified as gifted. Those students, along with students identified as enriched, are given the opportunity to enter the gifted program for grades 3-12. There are 108 students in the program, Hall said.
Hall is the school system’s gifted specialist and teaches students in grades 3-8 in the program. The camp, an extension of the gifted program, is funded through money the system receives from federal sources to offer enriched programs and enhance the students’ skills, she said.
“We’re finding out that most of our children do not have the opportunity to do a lot of experiments,” Hall said. “So we try to do a few things with them during the summer.”
Wednesday’s cars were an experiment with elements of force. By the end of the day, the students’ cars were rolling across the floor under balloon power — although a few students purposely made theirs fly, Hall said with a laugh.
It’s not just learning, it’s fun, she said. The students have taken field trips to the Anniston Museum of Natural History and to the roller skating rink. They made smoothies so that they could learn how to follow a recipe.
Fourth-grader Jaden Miller said that’s been his favorite activity so far.
“I made a banana-strawberry,” Jaden said. “It was a very good lesson and it was a very good drink.”
Jaden sat with his younger brother, Cameron Miller, and with Quintin Woods, both third-graders. They said they came to camp because they thought it would be fun, and it seems to have met their and other students’ expectations. At least half the students in the classroom raised their hands when Hall asked who had attended the camp last year.
Latavia Curles, a sixth-grader in the system, said she is attending her second year of the camp because she wanted to be prepared for seventh grade.
“We had a lot of fun,” Curles said of last year’s camp. “I wanted to come back, so I would learn more this year.”
She said the camp’s routine is very different from that of a regular school day. Students can wear their clothes of choice; there are no uniforms. There are lots of field trips and other activities. One of Curles’ favorite activities at last year’s camp was helping younger children with their lessons.
“I helped a little boy. His name was Jonathan,” Curles said. “I helped him learn his name; I helped him speak better. I helped him learn his alphabet.”
Star staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545.