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Summer center held at Fairview Outdoor Education Center

July 11, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

CLEAR SPRING -- What happened to all of the bats?

That's the question a group of elementary and middle school students is trying to answer this week during an enrichment program at Fairview Outdoor Education Center.

Rebecca Beecroft, program director of the Maryland Summer Center for Gifted and Talented Children at the Clear Spring outdoor facility, said the area is an ideal place for bats to live.

There has been, however, a noticeable drop in the number of bats in the area. So, about 15 students have dedicated a week of their summer vacations to studying the area to find clues as to why the bats fled.

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Rayne Fiery, 12, of Clear Spring, who is enrolled in the wildlife program, said she "just loves nature."

For those students who have other interests, there are five groups spending the week learning at Fairview as part of the Center for Environmental Conservation and Historical Preservation - geology, archaeology, wildlife, creative writing and environmental art, Beecroft said.

More than 60 students from across Maryland are enrolled in the programs, which are being held this week. There also are other Maryland Summer Center programs throughout the state.

"(The programs) have always appealed to the children who have above-average intelligence," Beecroft said.

The students learn, but also have fun with hands-on activities that challenge them, she said.

"It has the fun and adventure of being away from home in a camp atmosphere, but it has the academic focus," Beecroft said.

Students stay overnight at Fairview.

Max Burzinski, 11, said he chose to enroll in the wildlife program because he wanted to help protect the environment.

"I wanted to help protect the water," said Max, who will be a sixth-grader at Northern Middle School in the fall, as he took water samples from Toms Run, a stream near the center.

Students took samples of the water to determine whether it was safe for animals and plants. Knowing whether the water was safe for animals and plants might help the class determine whether it was a lack of available food that drove the bat population from the area, Beecroft said.

Jennifer Rowan, 10, of Williamsport, said she enjoyed the "hands-on activities," such as Monday's work at Toms Run.

"Instead of sitting in the classroom and listening to the teacher, you can be outside," said Jennifer, a sixth-grader at Springfield Middle School.

The students also planned trips this week to investigate water quality at Rocky Gap State Park in Flintstone, Md., and in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

"You can also learn as you have fun," Rayne said.

She said the skills she is learning during the nine-day program will help her when she returns to Clear Spring Middle School.

The application process to attend the program is competitive, Beecroft said. About 100 applications usually are received for about 60 spots.

Beecroft said that fewer applications were received this year, which she attributed to a national economic slump. Tuition is $475 for the nine-day program.

Beecroft said $2,600 in scholarships were awarded to students who were qualified to attend, but could not afford to do so.

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