Gifted, talented students learn during weeklong program

July 31, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

CLEAR SPRING - Watching the snake eat the mouse.

That was the best part, said Daniall Masood, 9, of Hagerstown.

Daniall went with about 15 other children Tuesday to the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo in Thurmont, Md. The children, including many Washington County students, are enrolled in the Maryland Summer Center program operating this week at the Fairview Outdoor Education Center near Clear Spring.

Daniall is one of about 80 children learning about five different topics - geology, wildlife, visual art, creative writing and the Battle of Gettysburg. He is in the wildlife group, and each group has about 16 students in it, said Pearl Howell, director of the Maryland Summer Center.

The program ran from July 23 through Saturday, and students spent the night at the outdoor center, along with their instructors.


Tristen Sagal, 11, of Hagerstown, who will be a sixth-grader at Springfield Middle School, said the wildlife group worked Tuesday to prepare a butterfly garden to attract Maryland's state insect, the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly. Howell said there are no Checkerspot Butterflies at the outdoor center, and the group was hoping to attract the insects with brightly colored flowers they like.

"We're learning about habitats and what (butterflies) need to survive," Tristen said.

Nick Brandenburg, 10, of Hagerstown, who will be a sixth-grader at Northern Middle School, said he also has been taking photographs of the work that he and the other students have been doing for a Web site.

Stephanie Zenker, the Maryland Department of Education's state specialist in gifted education, said the goals of the Maryland Summer Center's programs are that students learn something new, and are exposed to resources and learning tools outside of the classroom.

"It's child-focused instruction," Zenker said.

About 110 students applied to the weeklong program, and 80 were accepted.

This was Kevin Griffin's second time enrolled in the Maryland Summer Center. The first time, he learned about geology, but said this year, he wanted to learn about wildlife.

Kevin, 10, of Hagerstown, will be a sixth-grader at E. Russell Hicks Middle School, and said he is interested in the outdoors.

He and many of the other students said their favorite activity so far had been the trip to the zoo.

"I enjoyed seeing the habitat at the zoo because we compared how the habitats were different, but the same from big zoos and little zoos," said Iris Wechsler, 9, of Boonsboro.

Students in each of the five groups also used facilities at Clear Spring High School.

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